A Carlisle man with a mental age of 12 has been prosecuted after he repeatedly tried to chat with two 14-year-old girls he didn’t know.
On one occasion, 26-year-old Eddie Craig, who also has attention deficit disorder, approached one of the girls in the street, patted her on the arm and told her she was beautiful, the city’s magistrates court heard.
He denied two allegations of harassment without violence but was convicted after District Judge Gerald Chalk heard more than two hours of evidence.
The judge accepted Craig, who said he was bullied because of his learning disability, was not trying to be unpleasant to the girls but he said his behaviour frightened them.
The first girl to testify said she initially noticed Craig in February last year when she was on a bus and he was sitting in front of her, constantly turning round and looking at her. It left her feeling shocked and scared.
A few weeks later, she said, it happened again.
The next incident happened in December as the girl stood at a bus stop in Carlisle city centre.
She described Craig crossing the road, shaking her hand and introducing himself before patting her shoulder.
“He started patting my elbow up to the shoulder and said I’m beautiful,” said the girl, adding that it “creeped her out”.
She saw the defendant again on January 4 on Nelson Bridge and she hid round a corner to avoid him.
On another occasion, she saw him in Carlisle city centre and he said good morning and asked how she was. She said: “It made me feel weird. I didn’t want to speak to him and just walked on.”
Her final encounter with Craig was in January when she again saw him on a bus and noticed that he kept turning round to look at her.
Asked how the various encounters left her feeling, the teenager said: “At first it made me scared.
“Then I just got tired of the whole situation. I just wanted him to leave me alone. It made me feel annoyed.”
The second girl said she was doing her paper-round in early March when Craig approached her and asked if she had any cigarettes or a lighter. Walking past him, she ignored the question.
She said he followed her for five or 10 minutes. The girl said it left her feeling slightly scared. She next encountered Craig when she was with her grandmother in Lowther Street on March 28.
“He started walking towards us and was starting to speak to us,” said the girl. They walked away without speaking to him. He had done the same on two or three other occasions.
In one encounter, he was on a passing bus and gave her a ‘thumbs up’ signal.
When police intervewed him, Craig – whose learning difficulties meant he had to have an appropriate adult with him – said he could not remember the incidents.
His stepfather Paul Rhodes told the court: “He has attention deficit disorder and a learning disability – a mental age of 12. People see him as odd and they throw abuse at him.”
Mr Rhodes confirmed that Craig had trouble recalling things because of his condition.
He told the judge that Craig’s behaviour was the result of his condition but there was nothing to cause concern.
Giving evidence, Craig told prosecutor John Moran: “I’m always being picked on and bullied with names. I’m always targeted. That’s why I turn round a lot.” He was not trying to get attention from the girls, he said.
Mr Moran said for the offences to be proven the judge had to rule that Craig’s behaviour was “unacceptable and oppressive”.
Nigel Beesley, for Craig, said the behaviour attributed to his client should not be criminalised.
He accepted that touching the first girl’s arm could be seen as harassment but said it was not part of a course of such conduct.
Judge Chalk said he found the girls’ evidence persuasive and he was satisified that Craig’s behaviour towards them amounted to harassment.
He told the defendant: “I don’t think you were trying to be unpleasant but you frightened them. They were scared. I’m sure you didn’t think you were scaring them but they were scared.
“If you don’t know somebody, sometimes it’s allright to go up and speak to them, if you are asking for directions, but you can’t go round approaching children because that can be misunderstood.
“It will be best in the future if you don’t speak to any child at all unless you know them or if your mum and dad are with you. Otherwise, you must try to ignore them.”
The judge imposed a £100 fine, with £500 costs, and a £30 victim surcharge. He also imposed a two-year restraining order, which means Craig, of Gilsland Road, Durranhill, Carlisle, must have no contact with either of the girls.