An awkward young man has been convicted of sexual assault for making physical contact with a female classmate whom he said he was trying to befriend.
Jamie Griffiths, 19, was convicted of two charges at Manchester Magistrates’ Court in England and will be sentenced later this month. He faces up to 10 years in jail and being registered as a sex offender.
“The complainant’s evidence was very clear, logical and without embellishment,” a magistrate told Griffiths. “We can think of no motivation for you to touch the victim other than sexual. Had she not taken evasive action the assault was likely to have been even more serious.”
Last fall, Griffiths — who described himself to the court as “shy, anxious and awkward” teenager — googled “How to make a friend. He then twice approached a 17-year-old female classmate in what he said were attempts to do just that.
Both exchanges took place during the day in the streets of Knutsford, England. They did not go well.
Jamie Griffiths makes his first pass
In the first, instance, Griffiths touched the arm of the young woman, who has not been publicly identified. According to the Manchester Evening news, the unnamed woman, now 18, told the court:
I was just set on getting home and [reviewing] for my mock exams, but as I was coming over the bridge I saw him facing a hedge and I thought it was really weird. He wasn’t doing anything. He was just facing the hedge, staring at it.
As I walked towards him, I was watching him and he suddenly swung round so he was facing me.
I remember it happening fast. As soon as he moved, I moved, and I said: ‘stop’ and he touched me on my arm. I sort of jolted out of the way and I went into the road to avoid him and he very quickly walked away…
I forgot about it for a while because I had my exams. I just thought it was weird behavior.
The accuser said she had “no doubt” if she had not moved away from Griffiths, he would have gone on to touch her breast.
Like Griffiths, she was applying to university at the time and studying for the required standardized test in England. She said Griffiths caused her additional stress that interfered with her plan to go to Oxford.
Griffiths went on to study at the less prestigious Durham University.
Jamie Griffiths tries again
The future undergrad approached his classmate a second time while she was returning from a lesson. She said Griffiths walked in front and then touched her waist and “smirked.”
“It was quite a while—three to five seconds,” she said. “He smirked at me, he didn’t stop, he just touched me and walked off and I broke down crying in the street—it was quite traumatic.”
She added: “I broke down in tears straight away and rang my mum.”
The accuser said she later read on a local Facebook group about some other incidents — about which nothing has been disclosed — and decided they might be related to her experience. So, she and her mother filed a crime report.
Afterward, she said, “Every time I started working I would cry because I would think of it. I felt very unsafe, even in my own home.”
Griffiths told the court that when he approached his former classmate, he had been trying to take Google’s advice and tell a joke to break the ice.
“I went to touch her arm to start a conversation and she just walked off,” he said. “My intention was to make a friend. All my friends had left. I was lonely. I just wanted to speak to someone,”
“The words just didn’t come out,” he explained.
What the girl saw as a smirk, he said was meant as a friendly smile.
As for the physical contact, he said: “Touching someone’s arm to get their attention, I would have thought was normal.”