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Moray man (43) admits sexually assaulting teenager

By Ali Morrison

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A photo of Benjamin Mearns on social media.
A photo of Benjamin Mearns on social media.

A terrified teenager was chased by a cyclist who then sexually assaulted her at a busy recreation area in Moray.

The attack happened on July 24 last year at 'The Pinni' in Fochabers which runs alongside the River Spey.

Inverness Sheriff Court was told that 43-year-old Benjamin Mearns had approached the girl and her friend as they made their way to go swimming in the river with three boys.

Fiscal depute David Barclay stated Mearns offered the girls, both then aged 14, £20 to take their photographs in their bathing costumes.

The lawyer said: "They repeatedly said no, were frightened and scared and ran away. He cycled out of view."

Sheriff Eilidh Macdonald was told that the girls had finished swimming and were heading home when Mearns re-appeared on his bicycle.

One of the girls began to run away but tripped and fell.

Mr Barclay added: "As she was about to get up, his hands were on her shoulders, he pushed her back down and pulled up her bra.

"She was screaming and kicking out. Her friends heard her and two of the boys struck him to get him to leave.

"He got on his bike and headed towards the High Street."

The police were called and, with the help of CCTV footage from local businesses, Mearns was traced and arrested a week later.

The court heard that Mearns pleaded guilty to sexual assault and breach of the peace on the day of his trial.

Defence solicitor Matthew O'Neill told the Sheriff: "This was a moment of madness in a place which was very busy at the time on a warm summer's evening.

"He has never come to the attention of the police before."

Sentence was deferred until August 15 for background reports.

Mearns, whose address was given in court papers as Stewart Place, Mosstodloch, was placed on the Sex Offender's Register and his bail was continued.

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