A POWYS man who lifted the skirt of a woman while on a train, in what was deemed a drunken prank, must now sign the sex offender’s register for five years.

Gareth Manuel, from Kerry, was on a train travelling between Shrewsbury and Aberystwyth on March 4. The 40-year-old was out with friends, as was his victim, when the incident occurred, while the train was between Newtown and Welshpool.

Welshpool Magistrates’ Court heard this week that Manuel lifted the female victim’s dress on two occasions, thinking it was a joke.

He was instead charged with sexual assault when the police became involved, pleading guilty to the offence back in August. Sentencing was delayed on a previous occasion due to the fact that an initial pre-sentence report alleged he penetrated her, which he denied.

Prosecutor Helen Tench said Manuel was one of four males sat at a table on the train, with the female victim sat at an opposite table with her friends.

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“The incident happened between Newtown and Welshpool at around 11pm,” said Mrs Tench.

“The female was talking to someone she knew at the opposite table. She had her back to them (the group of males).

“She felt her dress being pulled, she turned around but couldn’t see anything. Then a hand pulled at her dress again. She turned round and this time saw the defendant’s hand.

“She pointed him out when police arrived and he was arrested. There were no witnesses but there was CCTV.

“The defendant said in interview he touched her skirt then did it again. Looking back, he said his behaviour was not acceptable. He agreed he didn’t have permission. He said he thought it was a joke, but now he doesn’t think so.

“After viewing the CCTV he said ‘I didn’t realise I lifted the skirt that high, but I clearly did’.”

Mrs Tench read out a victim impact statement from the woman. In it she said: “The incident has left me feeling very anxious, embarrassed and ashamed.

“It was my first time going out since having children and since Covid. This has shattered my confidence. I don’t get why they thought it was funny because it made me feel awful.”

Huw Williams, representing Manuel, told magistrates he realised his actions were "wholly inappropriate" and said he would not do it again.

“He has only one previous conviction," he said. "A number of character references have been handed in on his behalf.

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“It naturally follows he will sign on the sex offender’s register.”

Magistrates told Manuel he will be subjected to a 12-month community order that includes 150 hours of unpaid work, as well as 20 rehabilitation activity days.

He was ordered to pay his victim £300 compensation and, as a result of his conviction, he must sign on the sex offender’s register for five years.

He also has to pay a £114 surcharge and £85 costs.