A Brighouse man with a fetish for looking at the colour of women’s underwear has been jailed for an early morning sex assault.
Darren Halford, 48, burst into tears in the dock at Bradford Crown Court today (Friday) as the prosecution outlined details of the terrifying attack which took place on the town’s canal towpath in September.
Halford, of Finkil Street, stopped his car and followed his victim after seeing her walking along the towpath shortly before 7am.
The woman, who is in her 20s and cannot be identified for legal reasons, heard Halford running up behind her and grabbed hold of her handbag because she thought she might be robbed.
But instead Halford, who had no previous convictions, put his arm round her and forced her face down onto the ground.
Prosecutor Gerald Hendron said Halford was on top of the woman and after he put his hand up the back of her skirt he pulled down her tights.
When the woman screamed out Halford got up and fled the scene.
The court heard that the complainant sought help from a woman at a bus stop and after police checked CCTV from the area they released images of a suspect which led to Halford being arrested at his workplace in Elland the next day.
Mr Hendron said when officers searched the defendant’s car they found a blue jumper and a pair of boots which matched the attacker’s clothing.
Halford was jailed for two years after he admitted the sexual assault at the earliest opportunity, but Judge Jonathan Rose told him he had ruined his victim’s life.
In a victim impact statement which was summarised in court the woman described how she had found it difficult to come to terms with the attack and had had trouble sleeping.
“She always feels uncomfortable whilst being out and fearful of being out alone,” said Mr Hendron.
Barrister Gillian Batts, for Halford, submitted that his expressions of remorse were genuine and sincere and she urged the judge to accept that her client’s intention had been to see the woman’s underwear.
She said her client’s early guilty plea had spared the woman the ordeal of having to give evidence at a trial and he could not explain what it was that caused him stop his car and attack her.
She said Halford told her he was heartbroken for what he had done to his victim and couldn’t express how deeply sorry he was.
“He would do anything to turn back the clock and do anything to put it right,” she added.
Judge Rose said the woman had walking in a secluded and quiet location when Halford saw an opportunity to fulfil what could only be described as his “lustful desire”.
The judge said he accepted that Halford had wanted to fulfil his fetish to see the colour of the woman’s underwear, but he said he had no doubt the woman thought she was going to be raped.
“That was the terror you instilled in her,” he told Halford.
“A woman struggling with a strange man on top of her, forcing her to the ground. One minute and 20 seconds is a lifetime for her.
“You have ruined her life, at least for the moment. She is afraid to go anywhere on her own and her family and her boyfriend are afraid for her to go anywhere on her own.
“An independent woman is almost reduced to the position of a child who has to be accompanied everywhere.
“I see no alternative to a significant prison sentence for this offence notwithstanding your remorse and distress at what you have done.”
Halford will now have to register as a sex offender with the police for the next ten years.