A spurned security worker who spied on his Colne Sainsburys employee ex-partner with binoculars in a terrifying and creepy harassment campaign has been spared a jail term.
Paul Griffiths had also turned up at Gala Bingo in Burnley, knowing the victim Hannah Sumner would be on her weekly outing there.
He took a photo of Ms Sumner and her sister from the balcony inside the hall and then texted the picture to the victim’s sister with the caption: “Boo,” a court heard.
Pennine magistrates were told how Griffiths was said to have repeatedly lay in wait for his victim after she broke off their three-month romance.
He had “hidden” in some bushes and then appeared and confronted the victim outside Burnley FC’s Turf Moor ground, causing her to flee across the car park and seek refuge in the club shop.
The court heard Griffiths flouted a harassment warning within hours of being given it by the police.
The defendant claimed he had been very upset because Ms Sumner had ended their “intense” relationship without any explanation and he just wanted to know why.
Griffiths (51), of Hawley Street, Colne, had earlier admitted stalking the victim and had been warned he could face a custodial sentence. He was given a two-year conditional discharge and a two-year restraining order, banning him from contacting the victim directly or indirectly and from entering the car park or store of Colne Sainsburys, where the victim is employed.
The defendant was also ordered to pay £85 costs, a £60 victim surcharge, £200 compensation and a £150 criminal court charge. The Bench told him the conditional discharge was to protect the victim and warned him if he struck again he would no doubt be sent to prison.
Prosecutor Mr Andrew Robinson said the relationship between Griffiths and Ms Sumner lasted just three months and they separated about two weeks before the middle of May. She would say it ended because of his jealous behaviour - he would check her phone and not let her have friends.
On May 11th, she was at work when a colleague told her Griffiths was outside with a pair of binoculars, watching. The prosecutor continued: “She contacted the police because she felt uneasy and intimidated. Police arrived and gave him a verbal warning.”
Mr Robinson said on May 13th, Ms Sumner was at Gala Bingo with her sister. Griffiths knew she went there every week. While the women were there, the victim’s sister received a text message with a picture of them with the caption “ Boo.”
Mr Robinson said Ms Sumner went straight to the police station and then back to a friend’s address in Burnley. Griffiths was seen outside the property in his car and she went in by the back door and called the police again.
The prosecutor continued: “In her victim personal statement, Ms Sumner says his behaviour was really scaring her and she was always looking over her shoulder. She is worried what he will do next. She says he has ignored the police. She wants him to stay away from her, her friends and her family. She wants nothing more to do with him. “
Mr Robinson said the defendant was given a formal harassment warning in the early hours of May 14th. At 9am, the victim was walking from her friend’s house on Brownhill Avenue to take an isolated short cut which would bring her out outside Burnley Football Club. He continued: “She says she heard a noise from the bushes next to the cut. She then saw Mr Griffiths behind the bushes a couple of metres away. She says she screamed. She was terrified. She ran as fast as she could across the car park, went to a car and told a man she was being followed. Mr Griffiths walked towards them and walked off. She went into the club shop and he walked past a couple of times and looked in. She finds all this very upsetting and scary. She says she is scared of him.”
The hearing was told when Griffiths was interviewed, he claimed it was a chance meeting on the morning of the 14th.
Mr Robinson added: “The Crown say he’s lay in wait for her on a couple of occasions and he’s clearly ignoring the obvious distress of the victim.”
Miss Jasmine Basnyet, for Griffiths, said: “He has taken responsibility for his actions. In hindsight, he has made it clear his actions may have appeared to be quite creepy. He was only trying to contact her in order to talk to her.
“These events took place less than two weeks after they actually split up. He’s told the probation service he was simply trying to understand why the relationship came to an end.
“Mr Griffiths accepts he was emotionally upset at the break-up and he was trying to reconcile himself with that.”