• Tue. May 21st, 2024

Court of Appeal dismisses Wantage dog walker sex assaulter’s appeal

Byoxfordnewspaper

Sep 30, 2022

Senior judges threw out claims that a convicted sexual attacker was ‘pressured’ into pleading guilty to an assault charge – and that a judge made a racist remark to him.

After being told that his request to appeal his conviction had been refused, Artig Emmanuel – who earlier this month memorably defended himself against other charges by quoting from Shaggy's hit 'It Wasn't Me' – claimed that there was ‘a lot’ in the judgement read out by Mr Justice Nicklin that was ‘simply incorrect’.

Another judge hearing the case at the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday, Lord Justice Dingemans, went through the 24-year-old’s concerns, but concluded: “We’ve looked at it carefully and can’t find any grounds for appeal in the case.”

Emmanuel was found guilty by jurors at Oxford Crown Court in February of touching a female dog walker sexually near King Alfred School, Wantage, in August 2021.

He had admitted approaching the woman but denied trying to sexually assault her, claiming that he was a ‘shy person’ and had tried to hug her. By contrast, the dog walker told jurors: “He grabbed me with his left hand behind [my] head and pulled me into him as if to kiss me and said ‘if you don’t kiss me I will hit you’.”

The Court of Appeal heard that the Friday before his trial began, Emmanuel had a conference call with his barrister and solicitors. He was told that the prosecution wanted to add a charge of beating – a form of common assault – to the indictment the jury would consider and, based on the admissions he had already made, he should plead guilty to that assault.

The barrister’s advice – that there was no defence to the common assault count – was repeated on the first day of trial. The judge allowed one adjournment for Emmanuel’s barrister to speak to his client again but refused a second as he had had ‘enough time’.

When Emmanuel did not enter a plea to the battery, the judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. The defendant changed his plea later in the trial.

Artig Emmanuel photographed after his arrest in 2020 Picture: CPS/TVP

Representing himself, the qualified engineer sought to overturn his convictions on seven grounds. He claimed to have come under pressure to plead to the common assault, that as he suffered from an autistic spectrum condition he should have had an ‘appropriate adult’ present, and the assault charge was ‘altered’ from beating to battery and he ‘did not understand what that was’.

He also argued that the judge should have granted an adjournment for him to consider ‘what I was pleading to’, that he was wrong to bring up his autism and direct the jury ‘to have no sympathy’ and took issue with the answer given to jurors about the definition of sexual assault. Emmanuel claimed the judge used a ‘racist’ phrase, ‘you are going back to where you came from’, at an earlier hearing.

Mr Justice Nicklin, giving the judgement, said the court was satisfied Emmanuel was ‘not pressurised’ and given ‘appropriate advice’. His autism was ‘not of such severity that he needed an intermediary’ and there was ‘no question of him needing an appropriate adult’.

Even if it ‘might have been better’ for the judge to grant a longer adjournment on the first day of the trial, the Court of Appeal held there was a ‘strong possibility’ that Emmanuel would be convicted of the common assault. The refusal of an adjournment ‘has not affected the safety of the conviction’.

The judge’s directions to the jury were ‘standard’ and ‘correct’, Mr Justice Nicklin said. There was no evidence of what was said at the earlier hearing in October, but the justices said it had ‘no bearing’ on the trial.

Emmanuel, who appeared at the Court of Appeal in person, is currently awaiting sentence for the Wantage attack – as well as a string of sexual assaults on female joggers and pedestrians in Didcot in 2020.

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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