Calderdale estate agent groped teenage girl who was “trapped” in his Mercedes car

Businessman Darren Ludbrook
Businessman Darren Ludbrook

A Calderdale estate agent who groped and kissed a teenage girl in his Mercedes S-Class car has been jailed for 19 months.

Bradford Crown Court heard how businessman Darren Ludbrook bought drinks for the teenager, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, before giving her a lift in his car last year.

During the journey Ludbrook, of Salterlee Court, Shibden, Halifax, stopped the car at least twice and a judge said the complainant had been “trapped” in the vehicle with him.

Prosecutor Jayne Beckett described how Ludbrook started rubbing the complainant’s legs and trying to kiss the teenager as she pulled away from him.

After stopping the car again he put his hand down her bra and forcefully grabbed the terrified girl’s breast.

Ludbrook, who was fined and bound over for indecent exposure nearly 20 years ago, told the teenager not to tell her parents, but when he was subsequently confronted by them he admitted he had “over-stepped the mark”.

Miss Beckett said Ludbrook suggested that he had only kissed the complainant and offered to visit her and apologise.

In his police interview Ludbrook claimed that the girl put her hand on his knee and wanted to kiss him, but Judge Jonathan Rose said it had been “an act of cowardice” by the businessman to try and blame his victim for what he had done.

He said the sexual assault, which Ludbrook finally admitted last month, was wicked and added:”l am not wholly convinced that you are remorseful for your actions despite your protestations to the contrary.”

The court heard that Ludbrook’s victim had suffered fear, distress and anxiety after the incident.

Judge Rose said the 43-year-old had developed an inappropriate sexual interest in the complainant and the assault in the car was the culmination of that.

“You believed, possibly through the arrogance of your position and your years, that she would have a sexual interest in you,” said the judge.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. She was not remotely interested in you.

“This was not a moment of madness. This was something you led up to and you targeted her.

“This was Mr Ludbrook an utterly appalling offence and she was terrified.”

Ludbrook’s barrister Abdul Shakoor said his client had now come to accept that what he did was totally wrong.

“It wasn’t the complainant’s fault in any way and he bears full responsibility for what he did,” he added.

He said Ludbrook had to sell his estate agent business because of the stress caused by his court case, but he was currently running a lettings business.

Mr Shakoor said Ludbrook had never been to custody before and was extremely fearful of that prospect.

In addition to the 19 month jail sentence Judge Rose told Ludbrook he would have to register as a sex offender with the police of the next 10 years and he will also have to abide by the restrictions of a sexual harm prevention order for the same period of time.