By Julia Atherley
Durham University student Benjamin Mills has been found guilty of charges of assault and sexual assault following an incident in November 2017.
Mills pleaded guilty to both charges and has been sentenced to a total of 26 weeks in prison, suspended for two years.
The former vice-treasurer of Durham University Rugby Club was convicted of intentionally sexually touching a woman, 16 or older, when she did not consent and he did not reasonably believe she was consenting, on the 16th November 2017. He was also convicted of one count of assaulting a female student by beating.
Both incidents took place at Durham Students’ Union. As reported by The Northern Echo, Mills struck his victim on the back of the head and knocked her to the floor when she pushed him away after he grabbed her private parts from behind.
The prosecution said the woman suffered emotional and psychological damage, including panic attacks and a nightmare in which she falls and hits her head.
A restraining order has been put in place and Mills has been ordered to pay £500 in compensation to the injured party. He must also participate in the Horizon Programme for 35 days and will be on the sex offenders’ register for seven years.
Mills was convicted at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court on Thursday 10th May.
The Durham student, who was vice-treasurer of the Durham University Rugby club at the time of the incident, was suspended from the University pending police investigation.
Mills was described as genuinely remorseful. Mr Turner, mitigating, described the former sports coach and Durham University rugby player as: “A man of exemplary good character, in the space of five to ten seconds has caused wreckage to someone else and caused phenomenal wreckage to himself.”
Owen Adams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Colleges and Student Experience commented on the case: “Durham University is aware of the outcome of the magistrates’ court hearing. The University is now considering what action is required under its disciplinary regulations.
“We want all staff and students to feel safe and enjoy their time at Durham and if a member of our community experiences this, they will be supported.
“The University is taking significant steps to create a community where survivors are supported, while striving to eliminate sexual violence.”
The sentencing comes after an ITV report found that Durham University has the ninth highest rate of reported rape, sexual assault and harassment at UK universities.
Photograph: Team Durham