A man who sexually assaulted his colleague has had an 18-month community order imposed after Solicitor General Robert Buckland referred the man’s original sentence for being too lenient.

Darren Riley, 44, groped his colleague on four separate occasions. First, he made a suggestive comment to the victim. Then, when she left the room, he followed her and squeezed her bottom. Following that initial incident, Riley proceeded to grope the victim in the same way on three other separate occasions.

When interviewed, he denied committing the offences, claiming that the allegations were a conspiracy by the other person in order to “usurp his position”.

The original sentence was a conditional discharge for 18 months. Following the intervention of the Solicitor General, Mr Riley has been ordered to undertake an 18-month community order, with an unpaid work requirement of 80 hours.

After the hearing, the Solicitor General said: “Riley abused the trust of his colleague in order to sexually assault her. His actions have had a continuing effect on the victim and it’s in the interest of justice that the sentence be increased”.

Mr Buckland appealed under the unduly lenient sentence scheme and Court of Appeal judges agreed with him that the offence merited increased punishment.

Comment by Peninsula Associate Director Kate Palmer

This serves as a warning to employers of the significant effect that workplace sexual harassment can have on victims and how seriously this will be taken.

Employers have a legal duty to protect the health and welfare of their employees, which includes ensuring a full and proper response to any complaints of sexual harassment.

Employees should feel safe and supported while undertaking their role and if their employer does not appear to be doing enough to prevent this from occurring, or act when there is an accusation, the company could be liable for substantial compensation claims.

Employers must also be aware of the potential for significant damage to their overall reputation, which could put off skilled individuals from applying to join their company and affect its ongoing development.

Last reviewed 10 May 2019