BARROWFORD: Man (60) tried to grope policewoman in back of ambulance

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A 60-year-old man molested a police woman in the back of an ambulance and made sexually explicit comments to her all the way to hospital, a court heard.

Troubled Joseph McCaffery had lunged at the officer and groped her, “scrambling around” with his hands at the top of her thigh. The frightened victim had to fight him off before she managed to handcuff one of the defendant’s wrists.

Burnley Crown Court was told how McCaffery struck in front of a female paramedic after the officer had asked him what he was doing for the rest of the day. He had told her he was getting some “fags”, alcohol and was going to masturbate.

The defendant was on his way to the Royal Blackburn Hospital for a mental health assessment after he had smashed up his home and the officer had decided to escort him to help ambulance staff. He was later searched by police and was found to have a lock-knife on him.

McCaffery, of Bolton Grove, Barrowford, admitted sexual assault and having a bladed article. He was given a three-month jail term, but had already served it on remand and a curfew. He was put on the sex offenders’ register for seven years.

Judge Jonathan Gibson told the defendant: “The officer was just doing her job and she was extremely distressed by what you did. This assault was entirely out of character for you, I accept that, and was when you were emotionally and physically vulnerable yourself, so probably your level of culpability is less than it would otherwise have been because of your mental condition.”

Miss Sarah Statham (prosecuting) said the officer had been called to the defendant’s home. An ambulance crew and the defendant’s ex-wife were already there.

McCaffery had smashed up his house and appeared to be “in rather a bad way.” The officer sat in the back of the ambulance with him, facing him, for the 20-minute journey to hospital. About halfway through, McCaffery began to speak in a way which caused her concern and the victim tried to turn the conversation around by asking what he had planned for the day. She was surprised by his answer.

Miss Statham said the defendant began to rub his crotch, made sexually explicit comments to the officer and she thought he looked “quite deranged.”. McCaffery then lunged at her with both hands and the officer felt he was pushing his fingers towards her private parts. She attempted to push him away, he carried on trying to touch her and they struggled.

The victim eventually pushed him away, cuffed him and restrained him with a seat belt. The prosecutor added: “He continued with abusive sexually explicit comments all the way to the hospital and then started to spit on the floor of the ambulance. The paramedic put a mask over his mouth.”

The officer, who considered herself a strong person because of her job, was in tears at the hospital. McCaffery was later taken to the police station and searched. There was no suggestion he produced the knife. He told police he used to use it at work but had not been employed for 18 months. The defendant had no previous convictions.

Mr Martin Hackett (defending) said: “This is an unusual case in so much that a police officer was clearly put to distress when she was only doing her duty and in a way which will live with her for some time and I accept that.”