Day in court for ‘bullies’ who taunted sex assault victim

A SEX assault victim was ordered by her attacker’s cousin to drop the case or she and her family were “going to get it”.

The woman was then pushed up against the window of a Swindon Poundstretcher, poked and struck by three other members of her attacker’s family, Swindon Crown Court.

Yesterday, Grant Townsend, the man who made the threats, was jailed for 10 months for witness intimidation – with the judge adding a further three years and four months’ imprisonment for unrelated drugs charges.

The three women who assaulted the victim were each given an 18 month community order. Sentencing the group, Judge Jason Taylor QC said their actions amounted to “bullying, plain and simple”.

He added: “The young girl’s injuries were thankfully minor, but this was a mean offence where your numbers must have caused considerable fear.”

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Grant Townsend’s custody image Picture: WILTSHIRE POLICE

Earlier, prosecutor Barnaby Shaw told the court the case was linked to the trial last year of Toothill man Edward Booth on allegations of sexual assault.

On July 2, 2019, around a month before that trial was due to take place, Booth’s victim was in Regent Street in Swindon town centre with a friend. Her – then alleged – attacker had been remanded in custody.

She was approached by 23-year-old Townsend, Edward Booth’s cousin. He swore at her then added: “You put my cousin in jail. Stop lying, why are you lying. Do you think when Eddie gets out this is all going to be over? If you drop your statement it will all be over – or you and your family are going to get it.”

Townsend’s mother, Sharon Cummings, 51, was caught on CCTV going up to the woman and prodding her in the head. Samantha Cummings, 37, her niece, went up to the woman but was pushed away by the victim’s friend.

The victim walked off then took out her phone. Linda Booth, 55, Edward Booth’s mother, appeared to try and wrestle the phone from her before Samantha Cummings returned to grab the woman’s hair and the pair grappled. The fight was broken up by a member of the public.

Mr Shaw said the victim had not made an impact statement, but in a witness statement taken at the time she told officers the assault had left her fearful of further violence. “She was saying it had occurred in the busy town centre and the defendants didn’t seem to care about what they were doing,” the barrister said.

Edward Booth’s trial went ahead in September last year, when he was found guilty of sexual assault and causing actual bodily harm. He was jailed for 11 years.

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Linda Booth outside Swindon Crown Court

In a separate case also before the crown court on Wednesday, Townsend admitted working as a runner – including for the Eldene drugs line. He was caught in December 2018 with 50 wraps of heroin and crack cocaine, a kitchen knife, two mobile phones and £185 cash. Eight months later, on August 13, 2019, he dealt class A drugs to an undercover officer in Liden.

Townsend, of Norwood Close, Liden, pleaded guilty to witness intimidation, possession of a knife and four counts of possession with intent to supply class A drugs.

Sharon Cummings, of Norwood Close, Liden, Linda Booth, of Corfe Road, Toothill, and Samantha Cummings, of Albany Road, Park North, admitted assault by beating.

Emma Handslip, for Townsend, said her client suffered from a number of mental and physical health problems. He was vulnerable and had been taken advantage of by drug dealers. A carer for his mother, he had no previous convictions for drugs supply.

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The Poundstretcher in Regent Street where the confrontation took place

Simon Goodman, representing Samantha Cummings, said the incident was out of character for his client. She had no offences for violence on her record.

Ellen McAnaw, for Sharon Cummings, said her client had become involved in the incident as a result of unconnected allegations concerning threats made to her son – and not the crown court trial. She had been out of trouble for 19 years and suffered from significant physical and mental health difficulties.

Timothy Hills, representing Linda Booth, said the woman suffered from a number of medial ailments and was “carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders” after her son was imprisoned. She was already working with charity the Nelson Trust.

Sentencing the group, Judge Taylor said: “This was a chance encounter but there were direct threats of violence to the victim and her family just weeks before the trial on a serious sexual matter. If she hadn’t given evidence the prosecution would have failed.”

The women were ordered to abide by a three month curfew and complete 20 rehabilitation activity days. Booth and Sharon Cummings must pay costs of £250. Samantha Cummings was ordered to pay £200 costs.

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