Woman’s fear of sex attack

A WOMAN found with a knife in the street claimed she had the weapon because she was fearful of being confronted by a sex attacker.

Police found Claire Ross with a white-handled folding lock knife in Kipling Road, Hartlepool in the early hours.

But when the 26-year-old was stopped and asked why she had the weapon with her, she told officers: “Wouldn’t you carry something with all these rapes that have been going on?”

Joanne Hesse, prosecuting at Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court, said: “At 3.15am, police were on mobile patrol in the Rift House area of Hartlepool.

“The defendant was stopped and searched on Kipling Road and the police found a white-handled folding lock knife.”

Ross, of Arnold Grove, Hartlepool, was taken to Hartlepool Police Station.

Mrs Hesse said: “When asked why she had the knife, she said ‘wouldn’t you carry something with all these rapes going on?’

“She said she had the lock knife for her own protection.

“She said the knife was her own and she would have used it if anyone attacked her.”

Ross had been bailed to appear at court on March 14, but failed to attend.

The court was told that a separate offence was committed when the defendant went to a cousin’s house, where she had previously been staying.

Magistrates were told that she wanted to get into the house to collect some belongings. But when she realised she had forgotten her keys and there was no answer, she decided to smash the ground-floor window.

Police arrived and arrested Ross, who was last before the court in October 2009 for shoplifting, for which she received a six-month conditional discharge and a curfew.

Ross admitted possession of an offensive weapon on February 9, failing to surrender to custody on March 14 and criminal damage on March 18.

Stuart Haywood, mitigating, said the offensive weapon charge may require a pre-sentence report to be prepared on Ross.

He added: “Perhaps her reason for having the knife is understandable under the circumstances, especially given what we are led to believe by the police and the local press.

“There have been a spate of attacks of a sexual nature in the last 12 months and it’s perhaps understandable that the young lady would seek to protect herself under the circumstances given that she is genuinely in fear of going out at night.

“But that is also not an excuse for having an offensive weapon.”

My Haywood added Ross felt breaking the window was “wrong but didn’t feel, under the circumstances, she could do anything else”.

Chairman of the magistrates’ bench Margaret Sleeman adjourned the hearing until Wednesday, March 30 for a pre-sentence report to be prepared.

She told Ross: “I know you were afraid of going out at night, but you still did have that weapon on you.”

Ross was granted unconditional bail.