A homeless man from the Bedford area, who committed a sex assault on a woman police officer in the back of her police vehicle as it was taking him to hospital, has been given a sentence which will allow him to leave prison where he has been on remand.

The 25 year old was represented by Lawton’s Andrew Morton, who told Luton crown court that mental health issues regarding his client had been identified but, providing he continued to take his medication, he was unlikely to offend in such a way again.

The man had been held in custody on remand since the incident last December.

Judge Stuart Bridge sentenced him to a 12 month jail term, which means he will be released immediately.

However, the judge was keen to set up a supervision package to assist the man in the community and he will get that assistance from probation workers.

Of no fixed address, the defendent pleaded guilty to sexual assault and exposing himself.

The court heard it was late on the night of December 15/16 that two women officers were asked to go to the night shelter in Clarendon Street, Bedford.

He had turned up there but, because of his manner, he wasn’t welcomed and the officers had been asked to remove him from the premises.

However, on speaking to him they found he was uncommunicative and staring strangely.

Suspecting he might have mental health issues, the two officers decided to take him to the hospital.

As the car was on its way to Bedford’s South Wing Hospital, the man – who was on the back seat and who hadn’t been handcuffed – pulled down his track suit bottoms to expose himself.

The first the woman officer knew that something was wrong was when he reached forward and rubbed his wet fingers across her cheek as she was driving into the hospital’s car park.

The court was told the officer was left feeling disgusted, alarmed and physically sick by what he’d done.

Having got him out of the vehicle, the court heard he continued to masturbate in front of officers before he was arrested.

The woman police officer had to go into the hospital to find surgical wipes so that she could clean her face.

The court was told he had previous convictions for violence and dishonesty and had been sent to a young offenders’ institute in 2009 for 42 months for a string of robberies.

Judge Stuart Bridge sentenced him to 12 months in custody, which means because of the time he has already spent in custody, he will be freed immediately.

He told the defendant that he will remain under the supervision of the probation service who will assist him.

Referring to the incident in the police car, the judge said “It was an extremely shocking and distressing thing to have happened to the police officer.”

He said the woman officer had been left outraged by what he’d done, especially because at the time she was concerned for his welfare and wanted to get him to a place of safety.

For that reason, the judge said the officer had not handcuffed him.