Former Hartlepool councillor fined after slapping woman's bottom at election meeting
A former councillor has been convicted of slapping a woman on the bottom after an election meeting.
Keith Dawkins denied the allegation but was convicted after a trial at Teesside Magistrates' Court.
After the slap, the court heard Dawkins said: "I'm sorry pet, I shouldn't have done that, I know it's illegal".
Dawkins was ordered to pay fines and costs but will not have to register as a sex offender because of the low level of his sentence.
The court heard evidence from the victim, and evidence from a man who attended the meeting that Dawkins slapped the victim firmly on a buttock just before he left the venue.
Dawkins and two women who had been at the meeting gave evidence to say Dawkins touched the victim on the hip in a bid to get her attention to have a few words with her.
"After the meeting finished I was talking to a few people when I felt a thud," said the victim.
"Mr Dawkins had used the palm of his hand on my left bum cheek.
"He then said to me: 'I'm sorry pet, I shouldn't have done that, I know it's illegal'.
"I was shocked, I don't think I said anything.
"It was a bit sore, marked, but was not bruised."
The victim said she went home, then texted another person involved in the meeting to explain why she had left early.
A man who was at the meeting said he was facing the victim when he saw Dawkins approach from behind.
"He had his arm raised," said the man. "As he got closer, he put his arm down into an underarm bowling motion before slapping the woman on the backside."
Under cross-examination from Neil Douglas, defending, the man conceded he could not see Dawkins' hand contact the victim because her body obscured his view.
Dawkins, 79, of Cobden Street, Hartlepool, denied sexual assault of a woman aged over 16 years.
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Giving evidence, he said: "I wanted to thank the lady for giving me a bottle of water earlier in the meeting.
"She was talking to someone else, so as I approached I touched her with the back of my hand on her hip to gain her attention.
"After I did so, I did say sorry as a joke, I am a Gemini and I turn things round to jokes.
"I did not slap her on the buttock."
Two women who were at the meeting told the court Dawkins had touched the victim on her hip.
They confirmed Dawkins apologised, but said it was clear he was joking and 'everyone laughed' at his remark.
Dawkins, who was of previous good character, was convicted of sexual assault by District Judge Timothy Capstick.
The judge said: "It is obvious that not all the witnesses can be right, whether that is because they are mistaken or have told lies is not for me to determine.
"One of the most important pieces of evidence was from the defendant himself.
"He said he apologised for what he had done, which he knew was illegal.
"I am satisfied he did know what he had done was criminally wrong.
"It gives me no pleasure to convict a 79-year-old man of previous good character, but I do convict him of the offence."
Judge Capstick said the sentencing guideline of a community order was not appropriate.
Dawkins was fined Â£100, ordered to pay Â£100 compensation, and ordered to pay Â£330 costs.
In this year's local elections, Dawkins stood as a candidate for the Putting Hartlepool First party, having lost his seat in 2015.
He was defeated again this year, losing to the Labour candidate.