A former soldier has been jailed for a drunken sex attack which has condemned its young victim to more than two years of misery.
Ashley Clear groped a woman after accosting her in People’s Park in Tiverton as she walked home from a club with a friend.
The woman, who was aged 20 at the time, stopped on a park bench because her feet were sore from dancing and was approached by Clear who had followed her down the street.
He attacked the friend who was with her and as he lay injured he seized the woman and ran his hands around her body before putting them inside her leggings.
The victim sobbed at the back of the court as she heard details of the offence. It has taken two years to come to sentence because Clear claimed he was suffering from automatism and was not in control of his wandering hands.
Clear, aged 24, of Prispen View, Silverton, admitted sexual assault and common assault and was jailed for 13 months at Exeter Crown Court by Judge Phillip Wassall.
The judge told him:”This was a random sexual assault on a stranger. You assaulted her friend to enable you to carry it out and caused her extreme distress, as anyone would expect.
“This was an offence carried out when you had been drinking. It was in the early hours and was against two vulnerable young people. You attacked the male so you could assault the female.
“It was a completely inexplicable sexual attack. Something inside you flipped and caused you to react in this way.
“I shall not consider compensation in this case because any order I make would appear derisory. I cannot attach a financial value to the gross intrusion this has caused in her life.”
Mr Andrew MacFarlane, prosecuting, said the victim was walking home from the Remedies Club in Tiverton in July 2011 with a friend when Clear followed them and tried to start a conversation.
They moved away and stopped in People’s Park because the girl’s feet were hurting and Clear caught up with them. He hit the man from behind and immediately started assaulting the woman.
Mr MacFarlane said the victim’s ordeal has been exacerbated by having to wait for two years for the case to come for sentence because Clear attempted to run a defence of automatism.
Mr Paul Grumbar, defending, said at the time Clear was a soldier based at Winchester and had come to visit his family in Devon.
He was drinking more than usual because his marriage had broken up and he was under emotional strain at the time.
This case has resulted in him leaving the army and starting work as a lorry driver.