Drifter found guilty of Burnley canal boat sex attack

Ricky Stuart

Ricky Stuart

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A homeless man was branded an inveterate liar when he vehemently denied sexually assaulting and attempting to rape a woman on a boat.

Ricky Stuart told a Burnley Crown Court jury that any sexual contact he had had with the woman had been consensual, and that he stopped immediately when she said she did not want it to go any further.

He admitted stealing her handbag, containing £130 and a phone, and apologised profusely for what he had done. He also admitted telling lies to the police about leaving town immediately after stealing the bag, but said: “I never lied about anything that happened on that barge.”

The jury did not believe Stuart and took seven hours 18 minutes to find him guilty by a majority verdict of attempted rape, assault by penetration and sexual assault. In the witness box, Stuart (31) said both he and the victim, who is from Liverpool, were drunk. The court was told he had been invited to join the woman, who was travelling on a barge with her former partner and their friend, who was on a separate boat, for drinks at the Inn on the Wharf.

He said: “We were just flirting. She put her arm round me and I was rubbing her back. She didn’t say stop. I put my hand round futher and she said she was not happy with that, so I pulled back.”

The court heard that Stuart was invited to stay on one of the boats because he had nowhere to go, although the victim said she was not aware this had happened.

Mrs Rowena Goode (prosecuting) said the woman was alone when she left the pub and went to her partner’s boat and not to the friend’s as arranged. As it was November she remained fully clothed under the duvet. When she heard someone else get on to the boat she thought it was her partner. Mrs Goode said it was then that the defendant approached, put his hand over her mouth and sexually assaulted her. She pushed him away and banged his head on the wooden panelling but he grabbed her head and attempted to have oral sex. Judge Simon Newell told Stuart he could expect a custodial sentence lasting years rather than months.

The judge ordered a pre-sentence report and assessment by the probation service. Stuart will be sentenced on August 16th.