University lecturer jailed for sex assault on student

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image copyrightSouth Wales Police
image captionKary Thanapalan repeatedly grabbed the woman's breasts and kissed her

A university lecturer has been jailed for sexually assaulting a student as she walked home from a pub.

Kary Thanapalan, 49, grabbed the woman's breasts and kissed her after she left the Rickard Arms in Treforest, Rhondda Cynon Taf, in November 2020.

Thanapalan, of Egypt Street, Treforest, lost his job at the University of South Wales after the assault.

He pleaded guilty to sexual assault and was sentenced to two years at Cardiff Crown Court on Friday.

The court was told the victim was not a student of the defendant and did not attend the university where he worked as a senior lecturer of aeronautical and mechanical engineering .

'Psychological harm'

Describing the assault, prosecutor Rebecca Griffiths said: "He repeatedly grabbed her breasts and kissed her despite her pleas for him to stop.

"He was undeterred when told by others to stop or the fact she was on the phone to a friend.

"Emotional and psychological harm has been suffered as a result of this incident."

The court heard Thanapalan approached the woman as she walked towards Treforest railway station alone.

He then stepped in front of her and said "hi" before putting his arm around her and saying: "Hi baby, let's go home."

The court heard he had appeared intoxicated and when the victim told him to leave her alone he replied: "You're breaking my heart". He then put both his arms around her and kissed her on the cheek.

The defendant continued to pursue the woman for 20 minutes and touched her numerous times, including running a hand along her back, grabbing and squeezing her breasts.

She ran away from Thanapalan but he continued to follow and when she told him to stop following her, he replied "I'm not following you, I'm coming home with you. We'll have fun."

The court was told the victim had become increasingly scared for her safety and called a friend who lived nearby to meet her.

When she tried to run away a second time, he pursued her said: "One kiss and I'll walk away".

'Worried and scared'

When they reached Treforest railway station, the victim's friend arrived and Thanapalan walked away.

The police were called and swabs were taken from the woman's cheek.

CCTV footage was seized and a Facebook profile of the defendant matched the description given.

He was arrested on 15 November and a DNA swab was taken. His DNA was a match for that found on the victim's cheek.

'Feared for my life'

In a victim personal statement read out to the court, the woman said: "From the start of the incident to the end, I believe I told the man 'no' 20 times. I was worried and scared about what he would do and what lengths he would go to.

"I didn't want to walk straight home as I didn't want him to know where I was living. I was afraid he would force his way into my house and rape me."

She continued: "I feared for my life as I was alone, it was late at night and there was hardly anyone around. I did not feel safe at all."

In mitigation, defence barrister Anthony O'Connell said his client had suffered a self-inflicted "spectacular fall from grace", losing his job and his marriage was "hanging on by a thread".

He said the defendant was remorseful and had lost his previous good character.

Sentencing, Judge Tracey Lloyd-Clarke said: "This was specific targeting of a vulnerable young female.

"Your conduct was persistent and the more she said no the more forceful and persistent you became. If [the victim's friend] had not arrived you would not have stopped your conduct and it would have got worse.

"This sort of offence makes it difficult for women to go about their normal lives. Women are afraid of walking around late at night in darkness because of the fear of becoming victims of such offences."

A University of South Wales spokesperson said: "The individual is no longer employed by the university.

"The safety and welfare of our students, staff and the wider community is paramount, and we have a zero-tolerance approach towards incidents of this nature."

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