January 2023

Pervert faces ‘substantial’ jail sentence after stalking women

A Wester Ross joiner who sexually assaulted a child and pestered other women for sex is facing a “substantial” prison sentence, a sheriff has warned him.

Joseph Stewart, 23, attacked a 14-year-old girl in her bed by touching her body through her clothing, undressing his lower half and trying to get the teenager to touch his penis.

When Stewart’s victim rebuffed his advances, “he left the room in a huff,” Procurator Fiscal Alison Young told Inverness Sheriff Court.

The sex offender appeared in the dock from custody and admitted a total of seven charges for crimes committed between October 2015 and January 2021.

He pled guilty to four charges of stalking different women, breaching bail conditions by contacting one of them, sending sexual messages and causing fear and alarm to another woman by drunkenly climbing into bed with her.

Stewart kissed the woman and, after being pushed away, laughed and slapped her bottom, the court was told.

Mrs Young said the stalking offences were committed between December 2019 and January 2021.

Around December 2019, Stewart targeted his third victim, sending her unwanted messages, seeking to meet her and forcing her to block him on social media.

The court heard that several weeks later, she received calls from an unknown number before he turned up at her door.

“She told him to go away, was left unnerved and shaken and contacted the police,” Mrs Young explained.

Almost a year later in December 2020, a fourth woman woke up to find him in her house “under the influence of alcohol and mumbling about having fun together”.

Mrs Young added: “She pushed him out the door. On January 13, she received a note through her door apologising.

“But at around 1am on January 17 2021, she was awoken by banging on her bedroom window.

“She told him to go away but he continued to make advances towards her, continued to bang on the window and making comments towards her.”

A fifth woman was contacted by Stewart, on December 21 2020, who sent her unwanted messages of a sexual nature.

“She informed him she was not interested,” Mrs Young told the court.

The woman blocked Stewart on Facebook after receiving a friend request and on the same night as he visited the fourth woman, he turned up at her door on more than one occasion and banged on it before driving away.

That same night, a sixth woman was awakened in the early morning by Stewart asking if he could stay the night as his mother had thrown him out.

“She agreed to let him sleep in her spare room and he invited her to get into the bed he was in and asked her on multiple occasions, ‘Do you ride?’

“Mrs Young said he left the property but returned half an hour later, ringing the doorbell and knocking on the window.

“However, she did not answer. She was left feeling vulnerable,” Mrs Young said.

Sheriff Gary Aitken deferred sentence until March 10 for a background report and to determine Stewart’s suitability for a sex offender rehabilitation programme.

He placed Stewart, of Mackenzie Square in Aultbea, onto the sex offenders register.

The sheriff told the 23-year-old he was remanding him in custody again because of his “cavalier attitude towards the court” in failing to appear for two previous trial hearings.

Sheriff Aitken continued consideration of imposing a non-harassment order to protect Stewart’s victims.