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ATIK nightclub sex attacker loses Court of Appeal fight against jail time

Byoxfordnewspaper

Sep 1, 2022

A drunk electrician who thrust his genitals into a student’s hand on the dancefloor has lost his appeal bid.

Suranga Wijethunga, 37, was found guilty by Oxford jurors in January of sexually assaulting two students and exposing himself on the dancefloor at ATIK nightclub in the early hours of November 30, 2019.

The Sri Lankan national denied assaulting the women and claimed that he must have unzipped his trousers as he was drunk and ‘wished to pee’. The offences were committed after a whisky binge on an empty stomach; since then, he had not touched alcohol.

Despite having no previous convictions and in spite of submissions that, if incarcerated, he would be unable to send money home to his mother and a 10-year-old orphan he supported through his temple, judge Recorder David Mayall jailed remorseless Wijethunga for 13 months in March.

Oxford Mail: The assaults took place in ATIK nightclub Picture: ED NIXThe assaults took place in ATIK nightclub Picture: ED NIX

On Wednesday morning, lawyers for the Oxford man claimed that the judge had ‘erred in principle’ by not giving sufficient weight to his personal mitigation.

Jonathan Coode, for Wijethunga, urged the Court of Appeal to replace the immediate jail time with a suspended sentence.

Although not included in his written arguments submitted ahead of yesterday’s hearing, the barrister said his client risked automatic deportation to Sri Lanka as he had been jailed for more than a year.

Since his imprisonment he had done courses aimed at preventing a relapse into alcohol use. And he was a ‘chastened’ version of the unremorseful man described by a probation officer in March as a medium risk of causing serious sexual or emotional harm, the barrister said.

Oxford Mail: The case was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand. Suranga Wijethunga appeared via video link from HMP Huntercombe, where he is currently resident Picture: OMThe case was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand. Suranga Wijethunga appeared via video link from HMP Huntercombe, where he is currently resident Picture: OM

The arguments cut little ice with Mr Justice Bryan, who before becoming an appeals court judge was Chief Justice to British Antarctica.

Reading out the judgement of the three senior judges, he said: “We do not consider that the learned judge erred in principle or at all in reaching the conclusion he did on the basis of the facts open to him at that time and the correct application of the sentencing guidelines to the facts.

“We are satisfied that the learned judge did not err in sentencing as he did at that time and he was entitled to pass a sentence of imprisonment of the length that was passed.”

Mr Justice Bryan noted previous Court of Appeal judgements that made it plain that when passing sentence judges should not take into account whether someone may be deported by the Home Office.

He added there was no evidence in the form of witness statements supporting the claim Wijethunga was a changed man.

The appeal was dismissed.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward