St Albans sexual assault victim speaks out

A St Albans mum has spoken out about her ordeal (photo posed by model)

A St Albans mum has spoken out about her ordeal (photo posed by model) - Credit: Archant

A St Albans mum subjected to a brazen sexual assault while walking home through the city centre is devastated her attacker has only received a suspended sentence.

Don't suffer in silence- call Hertfordshire's Sexual Assault Referral Centre

Don't suffer in silence- call Hertfordshire's Sexual Assault Referral Centre - Credit: Archant

The attack occurred on April 24 this year when the 36-year-old woman, who has bravely spoken about her ordeal to the Herts Advertiser but wishes to remain anonymous, was jumped on late that evening in Townsend Avenue off St Peter’s Street.

Ross Gauntlett, 26, of Lavender Crescent in St Albans, pleaded guilty to sexual assault at St Albans Magistrates’ Court last Monday, June 29. He was committed to prison for 26 weeks, suspended for two years.

Gauntlett carried out the assault four months into a 12-month conditional discharge, imposed at the magistrates’ court in December for behaving in an indecent manner on October 11 last year.

The court said the suspended sentence reflected the seriousness of the offence, along with the “physical action and severe psychological harm [to the victim], and disregard for previous court orders.”

His guilty plea was taken into consideration when the sentence was imposed.

Gauntlett was ordered to pay his victim £1,000 in compensation, along with a £265 court fine, but no further action was taken on the breach of the conditional discharge.

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He also pleaded guilty to harassing a woman in Hemel Hempstead from May 6-7 this year, by sending nine unwanted text messages and making nine unwanted phone calls.

In sentencing, Gauntlett was committed to prison for 12 weeks, to be served concurrently with the suspended sentence for two years. He also received a restraining order, and was ordered to pay £250 in compensation.

Reacting to the verdict, Gauntlett’s St Albans victim said: “The suspended sentence has absolutely devastated me.

“The assault has had a massive impact. I’m in counselling and have been signed off work.

“The whole of the last couple of months since it happened have been a complete mess for me; it has really affected me.”

The trauma of the sexual assault has resulted in her losing two stone in weight, as she is unable to either sleep or eat properly. The woman is also on medication as a result of her dreadful ordeal.

Despite the impact, she has approached this paper to send a message of warning to other local women.

Explaining in brief what had happened, the mum said that she had been walking along St Peter’s Street, when she suddenly sensed she was being followed.

She was then attacked from behind, while walking down Townsend Ave.

The woman went on: “When I was being attacked, my first thoughts were, you have to stop this guy. I really didn’t care at that stage about what he was doing to me at the time.”

So she fought back and screamed, “but he gave a chilling laugh and ran off.

“I ran after him because I didn’t want him to get away with it. I was ringing the police on the mobile phone.”

The woman praised police officers at St Albans who rushed to her aid, and apprehended Gauntlett.

She said: “They were non-judgemental and they took me seriously. I felt cared for and they put my mind at ease – they were brilliant.”

The mum added: “I want to warn women and girls to be on the alert, particularly to anyone following them or approaching them from behind. They shouldn’t assume that they are safe because an attack can occur at any time of the day.

“Try and stay where there are people nearby, and phone the police straight away if you are concerned.”

If you have been a victim or a witness of a sexual assault, click here to find out how to report it.