Sexual assault case defendant ‘behaved appallingly’ - Judge

Convicted: Fitness instructor Aaron John Wright
Convicted: Fitness instructor Aaron John Wright

A personal trainer and fitness model competitor from Coleraine has been found guilty of sexually assaulting and assaulting a woman after “nagging her for sex” on a drink-fuelled night during the Christmas holidays.

Aaron John Wright (39), of Hendra Park, who is well known in the Northern Ireland fitness industry, had contested the charges relating to the woman he had been seeing for six weeks since they got to know each other through contact on Facebook and through a church.

A third charge of causing unnecessary suffering to a dog on the same date, when Wright allegedly threw it off the woman’s bed during the sexual assault on December 27 last year, was dropped.

During a lengthy contest which lasted for several hours at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Tuesday October 11, District Judge Liam McNally convicted Wright of the two charges and said sentencing will take place in November.

He wants a pre-sentence report prepared but said while it was a serious incident it does not meet the criteria for a custodial sentence.

However, he said he will likely impose Probation which will look at how Wright deals with females and his drinking as the judge said the defendant’s behaviour had been “appalling”.

The judge said he will deal with whether Wright should be placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register in November.

Wright had consumed vast quantities of drink and despite the woman telling him she did not want to have sex with him at her house he persisted and sexually assaulted her.

Judge McNally said: “This was a nasty incident where it was quite clear that the advances of Mr Wright were not welcome. He should have complied with her requests.”

Convicting Wright, the judge said he was satisfied the account given by the injured party was “true”.

Earlier, the woman said she met Wright six weeks beforehand through talking on Facebook and “through church” and had had been out in a pub with him on Boxing Night.

In the pub she said he was jealous of her talking to others and was jealous of a man buying her a drink.

In the bar she said she was wearing a dress and alleged Wright put his hand up the inside of her thigh and she told him to stop.

Later when she said Wright was refused entry into another bar they went home to her house where they were alone and she started getting annoyed when Wright began to drink alcohol which had been left there by others earlier as he said he was not going to drink much that night.

She alleged Wright began to get cheeky and made nasty comments saying “I wasn’t very good in bed like his ex-girlfriends” and that she was not very good looking and needed to lose weight.

She said she began to cry and as he tried to comfort her he “straddled” her on a sofa and “demanded we have sex” two or three times.

“When he came towards me I started to get scared. I thought he would understand why I didn’t want to have sex with him after him insulting me”.

She added: “I started to get scared thinking ‘what was he capable of?’”.

Later her brother and others returned to the house and she tried to get Wright to go but he said wouldn’t because he had no way home.

She told her brother what he had called her and was shocked when Wright said: “I deserved a good slap and needed to wise up”.

When she went to bed she said Wright came to her room and as she climbed into bed wearing a dressing gown she tried to get him to go to sleep and he started asking her to have sex and again she said no.

She said he became “quite aggressive” and he again straddled her and demanded intercourse two or three times and “licked my face at one stage which I found very odd”.

She said Wright, who was still wearing jeans, grabbed her breast through the dressing gown and tried to open her clothing; pushed his groin against her and tried to put her hand on his groin.

She said she she was “terrified” but was unsure of what he was capable of and decided to wait until the morning to try to get him out of the house.

After 8am she said Wright was searching the house for drink and she told him to leave and eventually one of his friend’s picked him up.

She said she was “really upset” and spoke to her mother about what had happened and later decided to contact police.

During cross-examination she denied defence suggestions that Wright had not touched her in the pub or straddled her on the sofa where he said he tried to “cuddle” her because she was annoyed with him.

A friend of the woman told the court the injured party told her Wright had been “nagging her for sex”.

In the witness box, Wright, who went round the woman’s house for much of the night bare-chested while drinking straight from a bottle of Captain Morgan’s, denied feeling her leg in the bar and denied he straddled her on a sofa and said he only later went to her room to see if everything was okay with them.

He said: “I was aware she was unhappy with me not getting into the Anchor (bar) and me wanting to drink more. I just wanted to give her a kiss and comfort her.”

He denied sexually assaulting her and claimed that when his kiss was rejected he accepted she wasn’t interested in his advances and he left the room.

“I did not pester her for sex at any time,” he claimed.

He said he was sad the relationship had ended and was “totally shocked” when the police arrived at his door.

“I was shocked there were such allegations made and I’m sitting here today”.

He denied he was “out of it” on drink and said: “I’m not an aggressive person in any way, I’m not like that.”