A man from Plymouth who sexually assaulted a “particularly vulnerable” woman at a nightclub has had his non-custodial sentence overturned by leading judges and ordered to prison for three years.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, declared that the 20-month suspended jail sentence imposed in February in the case of Stephen John Hayes, 27, of Hermitage Road, Plymouth, was “unduly lenient”.
Lord Thomas, sitting at the Court of Appeal in London with Mr Justice Saunders and Mr Justice Edis, replaced it with a term of three years’ imprisonment.
The judge said the victim, who has “very poor eyesight”, thought that a man who approached her at the club was a friend of hers, and they danced and kissed.
However, she felt unable to get away from the man and realised it was not the friend she had thought it was. Hayes admitted assaulting her during the encounter.
Lord Thomas said the woman was a “particularly vulnerable victim due to her personal circumstances”. She had described how the attack had a “devastating” impact on her.
Hayes had demonstrated remorse, which was accepted to be genuine, and had taken steps since to turn his life around. It was also accepted that there was no evidence that he had targeted the woman.
Lord Thomas said the court had “no doubt at all” that the suspended sentence imposed at Plymouth Crown Court was unduly lenient and an immediate custodial sentence was “inevitable”.
The judge said Hayes was an offender who would “plainly benefit” from a sex offender treatment programme in prison and said the court would like its remarks to be conveyed to those responsible for the prison service.
At the Crown Court, the sentence imposed on Hayes was suspended for two years, with a requirement that he attend a sex offender course as part of a supervision order.