Voyeur freed after ‘unsafe’ guilty verdict

Preston Crown Court
Preston Crown Court
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A St Annes fridge engineer, jailed after he was found guilty of sexually assaulting an 88-year-old customer, has walked free after top judges quashed his “unsafe” convictions.

Gary Croft, 63, of Kilgrimol Gardens, has always denied gaining sexual gratification from giving the pensioner a “peck” on the face, then exposing himself as he sat on a toilet at her home last June.

But, after a trial at Preston Crown Court, Croft, who has a previous conviction for voyeurism in a public toilet, was found guilty of exposure and sexual assault and jailed for 12 weeks’ last month.

But, ruling on his appeal, Mr Justice Griffith Williams, Lady Justice Rafferty and Mrs Justice Thirlwall said Croft was possibly the victim of an unfair trial and overturned the jury’s guilty verdicts.

Mr Justice Williams said the fact that the jury were told of his previous conviction, when he used a mirror to spy on a woman in a public toilet, meant his defence might have been prejudiced.

The judges, sitting at the Court of Appeal, were told that Croft had been employed to fix the 88-year-old’s fridge-freezer last summer, but returned a few days later to check if it was working.

She said he grabbed her and planted a “peck” on the side of her mouth before asking to use the toilet. He then called out and, when she stepped into view of the bathroom, he was sat with his genitals exposed, she claimed.

Croft, who appeared at his appeal via a video link, denied the offences. He said the pensioner had kissed him goodbye and their lips had inadvertently touched, but denied using the toilet at all.

At his trial, prosecutors applied for permission to adduce evidence of the public toilet incident, which he denied, supposedly to show his propensity to commit sex offences against vulnerable women.

His barrister, Abigail Bright, argued that the decision was wrong and that it had led to unsafe convictions.

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