A SEXUAL predator who laughed as he carried out his sickening attack has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years.

Paul Garden, 35, of Armstrong Close, Birchwood, would 'prowl' around Widnes before his early morning shift at Liverpool's John Lennon Airport, looking for young women who were alone.

Sentencing in Liverpool Crown Court today, Thursday, Judge Robert Trevor-Jones, deemed Garden a dangerous offender with no element of remorse.

During his trial earlier this year the jury, who unanimously convicted him of sexual assault and assault by penetration, heard that he first struck in March 2019 when he jumped out of an alleyway on Squires Avenue as a 19-year-old woman was walking past.

Warrington Guardian: Liverpool John Lennon Airport

He worked at Liverpool Airport

The court was told he sexually touched her over her clothing but her boyfriend, who had walked ahead after they had an argument, heard her screaming and came back.

Garden fled and later checked on a local news website to see if the incident had been reported.

On July 14, Garden began following his next victim as she walked home at about 3.30am.

The 18-year-old sensed somebody was following her but was too scared to turn around.

Garden then pulled her to the ground on Henderson Road and sexually assaulted her before running off laughing.

The court heard that the offences began after the breakdown of Garden's relationship with his partner and child.

Ben Jones, prosecuting, said that analysis of his electronic devices revealed that there then had been 'a pattern of reckless behaviour'.

Both victims were in the public gallery during Garden's sentencing.

In a victim personal statement read in court, one of the young women said: "Since being attacked, I am not the same girl I was before the attack.

"He was laughing while carrying out the attack, which will haunt me forever."

The second victim is about to start counselling and is taking medication from the emotional impact of the incident.

Stephen Swift, defending Garden, said Garden is of previously good character with a lack of previous convictions.

Judge Robert Trevor-Jones, passing sentence, said: "Both on these offences occurred in the early hours between 3am and 4am.

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"You were living in Birchwood, working at Liverpool Airport and your shift began at 4am.

"You went to Widnes to look for a young woman on her own who you could attack for sexual thrill and gratification."

Garden said he was just killing time but Judge Trevor-Jones said this was nonsense as he was driving around just as clubs were closing.

"Your intention, I am satisfied, was to target a vulnerable woman, who would no doubt have been drinking and then assault her.

"This was sustained predatory behaviour towards young women who had been targeted when alone in the middle of the night.

"You have shown no element of remorse and are at a high risk of re-offending."

Garden will serve seven years and six months in prison, following by a four year extended licence period.

Detective constable Rebecca Ellis said: “Sexual assault is a horrific offence which affects victims in the most profound way.

“Garden’s offences have had a major impact on the victims, which has been heightened by the fact that he made them endure a trial and recount their ordeals in court.

“I hope that the guilty verdicts and the sentence handed down by Liverpool Crown Court provides a degree of closure for the victims and their families and that they can now begin to move forward with their lives.

“I also hope that this case and the bravery shown by the two women gives other victims of sexual assaults the courage to come forward and report what happened to them.

“Cheshire Constabulary is committed to tackling sexual violence and our dedicated rape unit helps and supports victims of this type of crime.”

Wendy Scott, a specialist prosecutor with the Crown Prosecution Service’s Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) unit, said: "Attacks such as these result in unimaginable terror for the victims and also create fear amongst the general public.

“Garden ran off because the victims in this case were able to scream which is why the assaults ended when they did.

"He appears to have become bolder as time has gone on and its extremely fortuitous that he has now been successfully prosecuted and is behind bars.

“I would like to thank the victims and their families for their courage in helping us build this prosecution.

" It is never easy to relive the events of something like this in a court but the CPS and the police will do all they can to help victims of sexual assault through the criminal justice system and to achieve a successful prosecution.

“We applied to the court for special measures that meant that the victims did not need to see the face of their attacker when they were giving evidence in court.

“I’d also like to thank Cheshire Police for carrying out a comprehensive investigation and working closely with the Crown Prosecution Service to achieve these convictions.”