Footballers charged with assault

Footballers charged with assault

Published Jan. 22, 2013 12:00 a.m. ET

A group of four footballers took pictures of themselves sexually assaulting a drunken 19-year-old woman, the Old Bailey (the central criminal court in England and Wales) heard on Tuesday.

The Brighton players wanted to have "a permanent record of their conquest", jurors were told.

The quartet took the young woman back to their hotel room and assaulted her after celebrating victory for their club in the Sussex Senior Cup, it was alleged.

Brighton players Anton Rodgers, 19, Lewis Dunk, 21, and George Barker, 21, and former team-mate Steve Cook, 21, who now plays for Bournemouth, deny sexual assault.


Rodgers and Barker, both of Highview Avenue North, Brighton; Dunk, of Woodbourne Avenue, Brighton; and Cook, of Perth Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, also deny voyeurism.

The offences were said to have happened at the Jury's Inn Hotel in Brighton in July 2011.

Richard Barton, prosecuting, said: "This case concerns how a group of young professional footballers, intoxicated after a night out together celebrating a cup final victory, took advantage of a young woman, who herself was intoxicated and who was obviously in a vulnerable condition.

"After taking her back to a hotel room, they waited until she had fallen asleep, and so was unable to resist, and then sexually assaulted her in a deliberately humiliating way.

"They compounded the humiliation by taking photographs of themselves doing so in order to have a permanent record of their conquest."

He added: "They did so for their own gratification, intending to share the photographs between themselves and they may have done so to share with others at their football club.

"These were the actions of a group of arrogant young men labouring under the misguided belief that by reason of their privileged position they could with impunity take advantage of a young woman in this way, because even if she realised what they had done to her, she would not dare report it."

He said the teenager - described as chatty and bubbly - did not tell police for six months "through fear of repercussions".

She finally made a complaint about being "repeatedly taunted'' about the incident by another footballer at the club.

The families of the accused, including Rodgers' father Brendan Rodgers, manager of Liverpool FC, were in the public gallery as the case was opened.

Mr Barton said the woman spent the evening at four nightclubs.

At the last, Lola Lo, she met a number of footballers out celebrating and one bought her a drink.

"It would seem alcohol played a part in the events that night," said Mr Barton.

A friend of the woman did not consider her to be so drunk that she was a danger to herself.

It is possible her drink might have been spiked but there was no suggestion the accused had interfered with her drink, the prosecutor added.

But this was not a case of a drunken young woman who did things when drunk that she later regretted.

Mr Barton continued: "This is a case of a group of men taking advantage of a woman who through a combination of drink and tiredness, ended up unconscious.

"She was not in a condition to resist, give consent or prevent things happening.''

The woman now had a series of flashbacks. One was walking along the seafront with Dunk, who had his arm round her.

She could remember waking up in a hotel room the next day in a double bed with Rodgers next to her.

Another player, Ben Sampayo, was asleep on a single bed in the room, which had been booked for them by the club.

Mr Barton said Rodgers was wearing only his underwear and she did not have her bra on.

"Her dress was pulled up, exposing her body. Her breasts were exposed.

"Toilet paper was strewn around the room and there were remnants of shaving foam."

The woman had tried to ring her sister but her mobile battery was dead.

Mr Barton said she asked to use Rodgers' mobile. He was reluctant at first but agreed after she was persistent.

She could not remember her sister's number and scrolled through photographs on the handset.

"She saw there was a whole series of photographs of a young woman wearing a pink dress.

"The woman was lying on a bed, clearly not awake and, in some of them, semi-naked men around her.

"She looked at some of the many photographs and then realised to her horror that she recognised the unconscious woman in the pink dress was in fact herself.

"She has no recollection of these photographs being taken."

It was the prosecution case that the men in the pictures were the defendants.

Mr Barton said the woman woke Rodgers up and asked him to delete the pictures.

"She wanted him to get rid of the photographs but he simply laughed at her. He told her that these were nothing to do with her,'' added the prosecutor.

"She pleaded with Rodgers to delete the photographs but he told her 'Sorry, we are going to a barbecue'.

"He locked himself in a bathroom and had a shower. She was told by Sampayo to leave, which she did.

"The indifference shown towards her by Rodgers and the others that morning is indicative of the group's overall attitude to her and the events the night before.''

Mr Barton said Sampayo had woken when the woman was allegedly arguing with Rodgers and she asked him how he would feel if it was him.

"He said that if there were a group of women with their genitals exposed near his face he would be proud of that and would put any photographs of it on Facebook."

The woman missed work that day but arrived the following day wearing "scruffy
clothes'' and appeared as though she had not slept, the court heard.

After she was questioned by her manager, she claimed she was attacked in the street but said she did not know the names of the men involved, fearing the repercussions of reporting the footballers, Mr Barton said.

She provided detailed descriptions of the men to police in the hope the footballers would be identified as her attackers, jurors were told.

The prosecution say the woman's initial refusal to identify the defendants as her attackers proved she did not willingly take part in any sexual acts in order to sell a "kiss and tell" story.

"She is not a young woman who is a wannabe 'wag' but rather she was clearly mortified by what she subsequently found out had happened to her as she lay unconscious on that bed'', said Mr Barton.

The jury heard that the woman saw two of the defendants - Rodgers and Barker - some time after the incident, when Barker allegedly said: "Do you remember having sex with me?''

The woman eventually went to police some six months after the alleged offences when another Brighton footballer, who cannot be named for legal reasons, revealed he had seen intimate photographs and videos of her from the hotel.

He claimed they had been shared among his teammates and threatened to post the photographs and videos online, the prosecutor said.

The woman spoke to her employers before contacting police on January 12, the court heard.

The woman told police she had seen a number of photographs of sexual acts being performed on her, the court heard.

She recalled one of the photographs showed the initials 'GB' sprayed on her thigh in shaving foam, with one of the defendants - George Barker - stood next to her grinning, the court heard.

The defendants were arrested on January 19 and interviewed by police.

Cook admitted that photographs had been taken of the woman with some of the players' genitals showing, but claimed he was in the background and did not take part.

In a prepared statement, Barker said only one photograph had been taken of the woman, which featured his initials written in shaving foam on her leg.

Dunk told police he had woken up to see another player - Leon Redwood - writing 'GB' on the woman's leg in shaving foam but claimed he had not seen any photographs.

Rodgers refused to answer police questions, the court heard.

Another player - Ben Sampayo - was also interviewed by police and admitted to seeing photographs of the woman unconscious after he had been woken in the night by his teammates.

The jury was shown a photograph recovered by police from Barker's mobile telephone, which featured the defendant standing next to a woman, with the initials 'GB' written in white foam on her leg.

No other photographs of the alleged abuse were found by police, the court heard.

Mr Barker told the jury the woman had provided a "clear and compelling account'' of what the four defendants did at a time when she was "unconscious and so very vulnerable".

"Some of these defendants accept that something inappropriate did happen, but point the finger at someone else, denying their own involvement,'' he said.

"Sadly the truth is that they were in it together. They deliberately humiliated her and they did so for their own sexual gratification.

"If anyone during the trial were to suggest that it was a joke, then you may think it was singularly unfunny and constitutes conduct going far beyond that which would ever be considered acceptable even in jest between friends.

"Here it was with a vulnerable unconscious young woman and as such, the prosecution say, it constituted criminal sexual misconduct."