AN OCTOGENARIAN undertaker who admitted sexually assaulting a woman before a funeral service at a crematorium in Leeds has walked free from court.
A judge handed Castleford funeral director Charles Edward Ashton a £600 fine and told the 83-year-old it was only his age that prevented a tougher sentence.
Leeds Magistrates’ court heard the woman had tried to get away from Ashton during the incident last summer, but he continued to pester her and at one point kissed her on the lips.
Prosecutor, Amanda Harris, said: “He asked her to sit beside him and she agreed out of politeness.
“He placed his arms around her and grabbed her shoulder while making sexual comments to her and two witnesses, including ‘you don’t get may of those to the gallon,’ making reference to her breasts.”
Mrs Harris said Ashton squeezed the woman’s right breast and pulled her head towards him and kissed her on the cheek.
Mrs Harris added: “He told her he wanted a proper kiss and placed his lips on hers.”
Mitigating, Stephen Swan, said: “It was a moment of madness. He is at a loss to explain... From the outset he has had real concern for the victim.
“From his perspective, it’s been completely devastating.”
Mr Swan said Ashton, of Churchfield Lane, Glasshoughton, Castleford, still helps out five-days-a-week at the business, which is now run by his sons.
District judge Roy Anderson handed Ashton a £600 fine and told him to pay £85 towards prosecution costs.
Ashton, who admitted sexual assault by touching, must also pay the woman £1,000 compensation and a five-year restraining order was imposed, banning him from contacting her directly or indirectly.
Judge Anderson told Ashton: “You are a respected undertaker but you have brought on yourself the utmost shame and disgrace.
“She found herself the victim of a nasty piece of sexual pestering from you, the effects of which plainly remain with her to this day.
“Were it not for your age I should be dealing with you in a far more robust way. But I’m prepared to deal with you now by way of a financial penalty.
“Your reputation has been shredded and that seems to me to be something I should take into account.
“For what it’s worth I’m prepared to believe you will not appear in court again charged with this sort of offence. But if you do, then I give you the clearest indication that you will face a far more severe penalty.”
On leaving court Ashton asked reporters: “Are you going to hang me? Are you going to hang me again?”