A TAXI driver sexually assaulted a Bristol university student in his cab – which led to his conviction for the grooming of under-age girls.
Easton Williams, 72, invited his drunk victim into the front seat on the way back from a club before ripping her tights in an attempt to touch her.
Earlier this year Williams, 72, of Ashley Road, St Paul’s, faced 22 charges relating to the grooming of girls from the age of ten between 1992 and 2002, but the trail collapsed over allegations of collusion between witnesses.
But he was hauled before a judge for a second time after police took into account his more recent attack on the student returning from Oceana night club.
On this occasion, Williams pleaded guilty to 20 offences and was jailed for six and a half years at Bristol Crown Court yesterday.
Judge Carol Hagen tied together his “opportunist” attack in his cab with his grooming which “permanently damaged” the lives of his younger victims.
Williams pleaded guilty to 17 counts of indecent assault and two counts of gross indecency between 1992 and 2002 as well as the sexual assault in 2011.
The court heard how Williams befriended four young girls by offering them money and grooming them until they would agree to play drinking games.
“The children say the defendant acted in a sexually inappropriate manner,” said prosecutor Donald Tait. “He would regularly say he would ‘break them in’.”
He added that one victim, aged 14 or 15 at the time, described the defendant as being “generous with money – it was money for nothing at first but as time progressed he would expect something in return”.
Another 15-year-old victim recalled the defendant playing games with the group of youngsters.
Mr Tait said: “After plying them with alcohol and cannabis he would involve them in competitions of who could drink and smoke the most, for obvious reasons.”
As the girls grew older Williams attempted to keep a lid on the sexual encounters by paying his victims off.
The court heard that relationships developed where the girls would end up blackmailing him.
Williams’ final victim was a regular customer in his cab whom he picked up on a night out at city centre club Oceana.
In court, he pleaded guilty to assaulting her in January 2011.
After consulting with her boyfriend, the 22-year-old victim finally reported the incident later that year and the delay allowed Williams’ first trial to go ahead without the charges.
Laurie-Anne Power, defending, said Williams should be given credit for finally pleading guilty – something that would bring closure to the case for the long-suffering victims.
In sentencing, Judge Hagen said that Williams had corrupted the young girls he assaulted and “destroyed their childhood and adolescence”.
She added: “What you did permanently damaged their lives.”