Bottom-slapping cyclist spared jail as court told he is ‘cripplingly shy’
A CYCLIST who terrorised lone women by riding up behind them and slapping their bottoms was spared jail yesterday after a court heard he was “cripplingly shy” and unable to cope in prison.
Constantin Barbutu, 22, wore a hood as he smacked or groped women walking, running or cycling in Brighton.
The Romanian dish-washer initially denied 21 charges of sexual assault, then pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial to crimes against 11 women.
However, Judge David Rennie showed him mercy at Hove Crown Court, saying he was so “severely intellectually impaired” that he could not handle a prison sentence.
Handing him a 12-month suspended sentence and ordering him to complete 40 days of rehabilitation with probation, the judge said: “Were it not for the fact that two experts agree that you do have severely impaired intellectual functioning, you would be going straight to prison today. However, you do have these very real problems.”
Judge Rennie told Barbutu that what he chose to do to 11 strangers simply going about their business had caused “great fear” and “ongoing anguish”.
The attacker, dressed in grey tracksuit trousers, did not react as an interpreter relayed proceedings. The court heard he had struggled to learn English since arriving in the UK three years ago because of his intellectual impairment.
Barbutu first struck in September 2016 and carried out a spate of attacks between the end of December that year and February 2017. He was working in a shopping centre restaurant at the time and living with his girlfriend in Hove.
Police in East Sussex began an investigation after more than 24 reports of such incidents in the city. Barbutu was arrested after a security guard who had read reports on the case saw him targeting two women and reported him.
Piers Reed, prosecuting, said: “The defendant appears to have identified sole, individual females. He is always on a bike, always wearing a hoodie up. The usual pattern is he strikes them on the bottom and rides off.”
Victims told in statements how Barbutu had made them feel unsafe. One said he squeezed her bottom then returned to do so again, as she watched him circling her and “smirking”.
Another said: “His behaviour was menacing and I was alone in a dark, isolated place where no one would hear a scream.”
Richard Elliott, defending, described Barbutu as “cripplingly shy” and frightened of coming to court, adding: “He is sorry for what he has done. Punishment will not help him.”
In 2008, Judge Rennie gave a man a 12-month suspended sentence and 200 hours’ community service for hiding illegal weapons in his grandmother’s flat. James Kelly, then 20, had faced up to five years in prison.
Judge Rennie said Kelly’s “exceptional circumstances” and guilty plea contributed to his decision to give him a suspended sentence. Paula Ogungboro, of Mothers Against Guns, called the judge a “soft touch”.
Constantin Barbutu leaves Hove Crown Court after receiving his suspended sentence