Asylum seeker sexually assaulted woman while she urinated in Sunderland alleyway

An asylum seeker has been warned he could face jail after he sexually assaulted a young woman in a back alley in Sunderland city centre after a night out.

Friday, 20th January 2017, 5:00 am
Updated Friday, 20th January 2017, 7:12 am
Ali Shahad

Ali Shahad, 38, placed his hands on the victim’s thighs as she relieved herself in an alleyway off Holmeside, Sunderland magistrates heard.

But he was soon chased off and punched in the face by the woman’s girlfriends, before he was apprehended by police.

The alleyway between Mecca Bingo and Sunderland College's construction site.

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Shahad, of Roker Avenue, Sunderland, had denied an offence of sexual assault, but was found guilty after a trial before district judge Roger Elsey

In his evidence, he claimed a case of mistaken identity, saying there were other ‘Arabic-looking’ people in the area at the time.

But an independent witness, who had just finished work in a nearby bar, saw what happened and backed up the victim’s account.

The court heard the woman had been drinking in Illusions nightclub with two friends, leaving at the closing time of 4.30am on Sunday, February 7, last year.

Ali Shahad

Prosecutor Jeanette Smith said: “The injured party had gone down a back alley next to Mecca Bingo in Sunderland to urinate.

“While she had her trousers and underwear down to about mid-shin level, she states a man approached her and touched her.

“The victim was exposed from the waist down, her private parts would have been exposed.

“The independent witness said he touched her skin – her flesh – not far from her genital area.

The alleyway between Mecca Bingo and Sunderland College's construction site.

“The person who did that has deliberately followed her into the alleyway.”

Giving evidence via video link, the victim said: “I took my pants down and my underwear, just to below the knee and I squatted and I started to have a wee.

“A male approached us and he was quite close to my face whilst I was still crouched down.

“He was standing up but leaning and he put his hand on my waist.

The alleyway between Mecca Bingo and Sunderland College's construction site.

“My friends saw the male and came over and the next thing my friend is hitting him and there are lots of police cars a the end of the alleyway.

“My friend hit him and dragged him away from me and told police he touched us without my consent.

“I was scared I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know why he’d touched us, but I felt totally violated.

“Why would a male follow a young girl into an alleyway at 4.30am?

“In my opinion nobody has any right to touch a female in any way without consent, I don’t know what his intentions were, but I felt violated.”

When police arrived Shahid, who had suffered a scratch on his cheek in the scuffle with the girls, repeatedly stated ‘no English’, the court heard.

Ali Shahad

Mrs Smith said: “Mr Shahad denied he was involved, stating to police he hadn’t done anything, he hadn’t been down the back alley, he hadn’t touched anyone, he was simply accosted by the girls before being arrested.”

In his interview he stated: “I haven’t touched anyone, I’m a good Muslim.”

The independent witness told the court she had been walking along Holmeside after finishing her shift at Illusions, when she heard a girl shout “get away”.

She said: “There were two girls on the right-hand side of the alleyway, all of them were having a wee at the time.

“The two on the right adjusted their clothes.

“The one on the left was still squatting against the construction barrier of the new college. It was quite well-lit.

“His hands were on her thighs and I saw him pulling at her belt that was still within her jeans.”

The court heard at a previous hearing that Shahad claims to hail from Sudan, but has paperwork from Kuwait.

Dan Pygall, defending, argued that the victim had been drunk at the time and would not have had a clear recollection as to what happened.

He also said the witness could not have known if the male’s intentions were sexual, and questioned why an identification parade had not been carried out.

“He said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, they got the wrong man,” Mr Pygall added.

Finding Shahad guilty, Judge Elsey said: “There was no doubt that when she was urinating in the alleyway, she had been touched by a male.

“She was not consenting to that and it was for her an unpleasant experience.

“This is a serious offence because of the effect on the victim, who felt she had been violated.”

Judge Elsey said he would grant Shahad bail until he is sentenced on February 20, warning him: “I can’t rule out any sentence, which means a custodial sentence is a possibility.”

Shahad was told to report to Southwick police station to notify his address as a convicted sex offender, within three days.

The alleyway between Mecca Bingo and Sunderland College's construction site.