A Royal Navy underwater warfare expert has been convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage female sailor after repeatedly slapping her bottom.
Leading Seaman Andrew Hallimond sexually abused the teenager on several occasions, but argued he simply liked banter and taking a ‘slightly friendlier approach’ with young recruits he was in charge of.
A court martial heard that over a period of three months the 38-year-old became obsessed with the junior sailor and on one occasion shocked her by saying ‘it’s nice to see you have red underwear in your drawer.’
He made inappropriate comments to her ‘on a daily basis’ and ‘could not keep his hands off her’, it was alleged.
Edinburgh-born Hallimond, who was attached to submarine-hunting frigate HMS Richmond, which until recently was based in Portsmouth, told the court he liked to encourage ‘banter’ as it could ‘break down barriers’ with his young charges.
He admitted slapping her bum while playing a game of basketball but said he just did this sort of thing as a ‘compliment’ when someone scored a goal or played well.
On another occasion, the court heard the young woman was alone on the basketball court with Hallimond when she bent down to put her water bottle on the floor and he slapped her backside.
His victim said the touching and abuse happened so often she ‘expected it whenever she came into work’ at HMNB Devonport and claimed he made so many comments she could not remember them all.
In another incident, Hallimond, who had been drinking alcohol with a young group of sailors, said they had been sat in the common room playing the drinking game ‘never have I ever.’
He went to use a toilet in the victim’s room and when he came back he said ‘it’s nice to see you have red underwear in your drawer.’
The three day trial at Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire heard that on another occasion Hallimond ran into the woman during a basketball game and touched her breasts.
He was accused of deliberately groping her but the court martial panel decided this was an accident and that on this occasion his actions were not sexually motivated.
Prosecutor Rupert Gregory said: ‘It is not the 1970’s. The world has moved on. You cannot just go around slapping your colleagues bottoms. It is sexual assault if they are not consenting or if you do not reasonably believe they are consenting.
‘It was happening day in day out. She hated being near him, coming into contact with him because she new at some point there it would be; his hand on her backside.
‘She tried to ignore it as just someone being a bit stupid. It wasn’t. It was sexual assault.’
The victim previously told the court she did not know Hallimond that well and so was shocked by his behaviour, adding: ‘At first I wasn’t sure if it was banter or not but after a while it was too much and it was clear they were towards me.
‘On another occasion he said to me “alright there, big bum”. I was shocked because I had never been called that before.’
The panel, consisting of four men and one woman, took three and a half hours to find Hallimond guilty on one count of sexual assault.
He was cleared of three other charges including grabbing the woman’s breasts during the basketball game, and slapping her bum in a lift and an office.
Hallimond will be sentenced on March 27.