A 36-year-old man was put behind bars for five months yesterday after multiple unsuccessful attempts to quash a sexual assault conviction and reduce a prison sentence given to him by the Magistrate’s Court.
Matthew McLean, a semi-professional rugby player from Sussex, was found guilty at trial to have simulated sex with a woman and then bit her boyfriend afterwards in a local nightclub last year.
He was sentenced to two months in prison for the sexual assault and an additional three months for the common assault, totalling five months. However, he appealed against the conviction and the prison sentence, hoping instead to receive a community service order, to be carried out in the UK, or a suspended sentence.
The Bailiff, Sir Richard McMahon, presiding over the latest appeal in the Royal Court said the Magistrate’s Judge, Gary Perry, had the benefit of overseeing the trial, the original sentencing hearing, and had sight of the probation report, victim impact statements, and other evidence throughout.
McLean’s advocate had also accepted from the outset that the custody threshold had been passed.
The fact there were two different victims in two different offences meant consecutive, rather than concurrent, prison terms were an “appropriate way to proceed”, the Bailiff said.
Five months was not manifestly excessive, and the original judge was best placed to consider alternatives to prison but was satisfied only immediate custody was justified. The appeal was therefore dismissed.
Pictured: McLean appealed to the courts multiple times to quash his conviction and reduce his sentence.
McLean visited the island in April 2022 in his role as a rugby player for a game against the Raiders. He later drank with teammates and visited Folies nightclub. In the early hours of the morning, he pulled a woman down to the ground and thrusted towards her backside.
McLean later got into an altercation with her boyfriend and lunged at him with his head and bit him on the thigh, leaving teeth impressions.
He was charged with sexual assault and common assault and pleaded not guilty. He was then found guilty at trial in the Magistrate’s Court last September.
The female reported being afraid to return to town because of the incident, while the male had difficulties playing sports due to his injuries.
Judge Perry criticised his “unwarranted macho behaviour” and said cases of the type were featuring more frequently in the local courts, labelling it serious and that a line needed to be drawn that offenders should expect to be imprisoned.
McLean quickly appealed against conviction and sentence, but each attempt has been dismissed. He did not dispute the assault conviction, compensation order, or being made subject to a notification order.
His appeal against the sexual assault conviction was dismissed by the Royal Court, a single judge of the Court of Appeal, and the full Court of Appeal. Meanwhile he appealed his prison sentence on the grounds it was manifestly excessive for the crime.
On appealing to the Royal Court last month, the Bailiff committed the case back to the Magistrate’s Court to reconsider sentencing options, including if a community service order could be undertaken instead of immediate custody. Probation continued to recommend prison, however.
Judge Perry, re-sentencing, ordered no change to his original sentence. He said instances of groping were coming before the courts “depressingly frequently” and said a “large element of deterrence” is required in such cases.
McLean appealed this reaffirmed sentence, but it was dismissed by the Royal Court yesterday (3 October).
Pictured: The incident occurred inside Folies nightclub.
Advocate Clare Tee, representing McLean, had argued that the judge overstated the seriousness of the offences and did not give sufficient weight to personal mitigation or his previous good character.
The incident was spontaneous, not prolonged, and happened in the middle of a busy nightclub in plain sight, she said. Sexual assault has a wide definition and touching of a sexual nature has a sliding scale of seriousness, it was added.
The Bailiff asked: “Is it more serious to simulate sex than to grope a woman?”
Advocate Tee conceded both were serious.