A SERVING soldier who sexually assaulted three woman in a Whitehaven pub during nights out in August and September last year has avoided jail.

Scott James Fleming, 27, pleaded guilty to the 'predatory' sexual assaults on the three women on two occasions - the first involving him forcibly kissing and trying to undress his victim and the other two involving him biting the women involved.

None of the women were known to him.

But Fleming, formerly of Meadow View Whitehaven, can continue his "exemplary" Army career because a judge has imposed a three-year community order and a 90-day alcohol ban.

Gerard Rogerson, prosecuting, said the first assault happened in a Whitehaven town-centre pub’s smoking area on August 1 last year. CCTV footage showed Fleming straddling the woman as she sat on a bench.

As she tried to push him away, he forcibly kissed her and then began undoing her blouse. Her ordeal ended when pub staff came outside and intervened. “She [later] described how this made her frightened,” said Mr Rogerson.

A month later, in the same pub, Fleming attacked two more young women. After dancing with them, he bizarrely began doing “press-ups” on the floor. While getting up, he bit a woman on the stomach, breaking the skin.

Seconds later, he bit another woman - first on her leg and then her breast. The August victim needed antibiotics amid infection fears. Referring to that assault, Mr Rogerson said it was sustained and had an “element of detention.”

Judith McCullough, for Fleming, said he remembered little of what happened. “On each occasion,” said the barrister, “he had gone out alone with the sole intention of becoming as drunk as possible.”

His Army career gave his life a purpose, she said. “But it also entrenched within him what amounted to an abusive pattern of drinking.”

Fleming had now apologised and felt ashamed. References told of his exemplary military record, she said, adding that a jail sentence - even if suspended - would end that career.

Judge Nicholas Barker noted that point but told Fleming: “In August and September of last year you let yourself down; you let your regiment down; and most importantly you invaded the privacy of three young women.” The assaults were deeply upsetting, he said.

They had happened because of his "excessive drinking", said the judge. The sentence includes a sexual offending treatment programme, 15 days rehabilitation and the alcohol abstinence order, which will be monitored by an electronic tag capable of detecting any alcohol in his system.

Fleming will be on the Sex Offender Register for five years and he must pay each of his victims £400 compensation.

As he released him from the dock, Judge Barker told Fleming: "I have passed a sentence which will allow you to continue your armed forces career. Make the best of this and let this be a lesson you.

"Women will be protected by these courts from boorish sexual predatory behaviour."