A RUGBY player who squeezed a stranger’s breasts in a pub and then smashed a glass in her face has been jailed for two years.
Former Huddersfield Giants winger Greg Johnson, of Newsome Road, Newsome, pleaded guilty to sexual assault and grievous bodily harm following the attack on Belinda Kelly in Yates’s bar in Huddersfield.
At Bradford Crown Court yesterday Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC told Johnson he wasn’t free to “molest anyone who took his fancy” and then attack them with a glass when they took exception to being “sexually molested in such a casual and loutish fashion”.
Secretary Belinda Kelly, from Crosland Moor, was knocked to the floor by the glass Johnson threw at her and was left with permanent scarring on her nose and damage to the sight in her left eye.
Following the sentencing Mrs Kelly, 26, told the Examiner she was “pleased” Johnson, 21, had gone to prison, saying his sentence was a clear message to other people in the public eye that they can’t get away with unruly behaviour.
Johnson has now been sacked from Wakefield Wildcats. As well as being jailed, he was given a concurrent three-month jail term for the sexual assault and will sign the sex offenders’ register for seven years.
However, the judge heard that the rugby league club would have given him a new contract had he not lost his liberty.
The sentencing came after Johnson smashed a glass into the face of Mrs Kelly, neé Coldwell, just three weeks before her wedding to husband Chris, 25. They had been going out for six years and were at a party when the incident happened on February 13.
The court heard that Mrs Kelly, who went ahead with her marriage plans, had to have stitches in her nose and eyelid and surgery to remove her damaged lens and replace it with a contact lens.
She has been left with blurred vision in her eye which will never heal.
Mrs Kelly said: “He’s being punished the right way with jail. I think if he had not have been sent to jail it wouldn’t have affected him. “I’m obviously pleased that he has gone to prison, but no amount of years will ever give back what he has done to me.”
Before sentencing, Johnson’s barrister Phillip Tully said Johnson had expressed genuine remorse for his actions which were wholly unacceptable.
He said: “Clearly if this young man could turn back the clock to before he acted in such a foolish manner in drink on that night he clearly would.” Judge Durham Hall QC was handed references on behalf of Johnson from the Wildcats, including head coach John Kear, and Mr Tully said his client had been offered a new contract on condition he did not lose his liberty
He said Johnson’s family would lend him money to pay Mrs Kelly compensation, adding: “Clearly he is a young man at the start of a promising career in rugby football.”
The court heard that Johnson had been involved in previous public order incidents which Mr Tully said were linked to his use of alcohol. But Judge Durham Hall said: “You are a rugby player of note.
“You have clearly contributed to the clubs for whom you have played. You have clearly worked extremely hard to achieve such success. You are highly thought of and I have read two excellent references.”
But the judge said Johnson had forgotten he was subject to the law and that he was not free to “molest anyone who took his fancy”.
Judge Durham Hall said Mrs Kelly had simply been going to the ladies’ toilets when Johnson grabbed and squeezed her left breast.
“Rightly that lady, and if I may say bravely and understandably, in her shock and anger slapped you and when that had no effect she slapped you again,” the judge told Johnson.
“And to pay her back for her impertinence ... you took a glass tumbler – a heavy tumbler – from her fiancé no less, throwing the contents away and you threw that glass into her face with obvious and self-evident force.”
The judge said the case involved higher culpability on Johnson’s behalf because he had grabbed the glass deliberately and used it as a weapon against an unarmed and innocent person.
“No doubt you would wish to turn the clock back. No doubt Belinda Kelly would wish she could turn the clock back to avoid the disastrous effects of your actions,” said the judge.
After the sentencing Mrs Kelly said she had to decide to give up on more surgery to mask her scars because it was affecting her eyesight.
She said: “At least now I can put all this behind me and move on with my life.
“Ever since it happened all I’ve lived my life for is doctors’ appointments and court dates and now I can put all that behind me.”
The secretary said she was glad Johnson had not been treated any differently just because he was a Super League rugby player.
She said: “I think with him being in the public eye and as a role model it is good that the courts show people like that they cannot get away with it and do as they please.”