Jamie Griffiths outside Manchester Magistrates’ Court, where he was found guilty of two counts of sexual assault
A ‘shy and awkward’ student is facing jail after he touched a teenager ‘in an attempt to befriend her.’
Jamie Griffiths, 19, Googled ‘how to make a friend’ then came into contact with the 17-year-old during two attempts to engage her in conversation.
The victim burst into tears during the second encounter and went to police with her mother, claiming Griffiths ‘would have touched her breast had she not moved away’.
She claimed her school work suffered as a result of the contact, leaving her unable to sit her mock exams and apply to Oxford University.
Griffiths, who lives with his parents and now studies at Durham University, denied two charges of sexual assault, claiming he was ‘shy, anxious and awkward’.
He said he had ‘clumsily’ approached the girl in an attempt ‘to make a friend but the words didn’t come out.’
Griffiths was convicted at Manchester Magistrates’ Court and will be sentenced later this month. The offence carries a maximum sentence of ten years jail if dealt with at a crown court and he faces being ordered to sign the Sex Offender Register.
The incidents occurred between October and November last year while the pair were studying A levels at a secondary school in Knutsford, the court heard.
The girl, now 18, said she had been walking home when she encountered Griffiths on a railway bridge.
She told the hearing: ‘I saw him facing a hedge and I thought it was really weird. As I walked towards him, he suddenly swung round so he was facing me.
‘As soon as he moved I moved and said: ‘stop’ and he touched my arm. I sort of jolted out of the way and went into the road to avoid him and he very quickly walked away.
‘I think it would have been on my breast had I not moved. When it first happened I didn’t think much of it. I forgot about it because I had my exams and just thought it was weird behaviour.’
Griffiths told the hearing: ‘My intention was to make a friend. All my friends had left so I was lonely I just wanted to speak to someone’
She said she encountered Griffiths a second time: ‘He suddenly moved to walk in front of me, looked me straight in the eye, touched me on my side and walked off.
‘It was quite a while – three to five seconds. He smirked at me, he didn’t stop he just touched me and walked off and I broke down crying – it was quite traumatic.
‘I struggled for a couple of months afterwards, I was applying for Oxford at the time and I found going to Oxford a stressful thing.
‘It just makes everything a little bit scarier – if there is a guy walking towards me by himself I start to panic. It was more shocking that someone thought they had the right to touch me as I walked down the street.’
Griffiths, who had been volunteering at a Barnado’s charity shop, told the hearing: ‘My intention was to make a friend. All my friends had left so I was lonely I just wanted to speak to someone.
‘She was walking towards me and I recognised her and I knew that she was a student at the school, I didn’t say anything but I really wanted to – the words just didn’t come out. I touched her but I believed that it was the arm I was touching.
‘I smiled at her, I was just trying to be friendly. I tried to get her attention and she ignored me. Touching someone’s arm to get their attention I would have thought was normal. I was looking for a friend.’
Griffiths said he has since signed up to Facebook and Instagram in the hope of making new friends.
He added: ‘I would say I’m very anxious and I don’t naturally make friends although I really try to.
‘When I looked up: ‘trying to meet new people’ and ‘make new friends’ one of the things I read was to start off with a joke.
‘I have always been a very anxious person, my friends all seem to really know what to do and I never really asked of them how they did it. I have always been more stay at home with my parents and loneliness is all consuming.
‘I really needed someone to talk to at the time and my intention was to make a friend – but I clearly didn’t go about it the right way and I am sorry for the misunderstanding.
‘I tried to speak to her but I just couldn’t, my anxiety kicks in and it makes it impossible to say anything. I would hate to make someone feel uncomfortable or scared. Maybe it is time to try to make friends another way.’
Griffiths, 19, (outside Manchester Magistrates’ Court) said he had ‘clumsily’ approached the girl in an attempt ‘to make a friend but the words didn’t come out’
His lawyer Claire Aldridge told the court: ‘[The victim] did say: “I think it would have been on my breast had I not moved”, but what she thinks might have happened isn’t the issue.
‘Are you dealing with somebody lying in wait in broad daylight or are you dealing with an anxious and awkward young man, someone who struggles to make friends by his own admission? He is a particularly shy, anxious young man who spends most of his time studying with his parents.’
But prosecutor Victoria Norman said: ‘He intended to touch her breast area and was waiting for her.’
Noting both approaches took place in ‘isolated areas’, she added: ‘An attempt to make a friendship with anyone surely starts with a hello or a wave.’
Magistrates told Griffiths: ‘The complainant’s evidence was very clear, logical and without embellishment. We can think of no motivation for you to touch the victim other than sexual.
‘Had she not taken evasive action the assault was likely to have been even more serious. The first assault can be recognised as opportunistic however there is more evidence of premeditation in the second.’