Man who plied young girl with alcohol before sexually assaulting her is jailed

A man who plied a young girl with alcohol on a rabbit shooting trip before sexually assaulting her has been jailed.

Malcolm Appleby, 39, of St Mary’s Court in Middleton, received the 13-year sentence at Norwich Crown Court this week, following the incident on a field in Gaywood, near King’s Lynn Academy, in November 2021.

Judge Andrew Shaw set out the facts of Appleby’s case on Wednesday, after a jury found him guilty of the offence following a five-day trial in his absence earlier this year.

Malcolm Appleby. Picture: Norfolk Police
Malcolm Appleby. Picture: Norfolk Police

The jury heard that the defendant invited the girl, who was 12 at the time, to join him for a night of rabbit shooting.

Another child of the same age was also with them, who told the court that Appleby was holding hands with the girl on the walk to the field.

They went on the trip at around 11pm at night, Judge Shaw said, and once they arrived, Appleby placed a blanket on the ground and continuously gave the youngsters an alcoholic mixture.

Norwich Crown Court
Norwich Crown Court

The boy could see that Appleby and the girl were in sleeping bags, with the defendant’s arm around her.

The court also heard that the 39-year-old threatened to shoot the boy with an air rifle if he did not go out to the middle of the field, so he complied with the order.

Judge Shaw said the defendant then kissed the girl on the lips and touched her underneath her clothes.

“I’m as sure as I can be that the reason Mr Appleby sent [the boy] away was so he could sexually abuse the girl with impunity in her sleep,” he added.

The girl later told her mother about what had happened, and she then alerted the police.

Appleby was arrested with bail conditions not to contact the girl, but in July 2022, she was playing with friends when he approached her and tried to persuade her they would “both get into trouble” if she proceeded with her complaint.

He also told her to tell police that it was a dream.

“The jury decided that was a deliberate act of intimidation with the aim of preventing her from giving evidence,” Judge Shaw added.

He said that the girl had suffered “severe psychological harm” as a result of the incident.

“I’m sure that there was a significant degree of planning here,” the judge said.

“I’m sure that Mr Appleby had planned to isolate the girl from her mother to commit this offence.”

The court heard that Appleby had 36 previous convictions for 103 offences, although his defence pointed out that none of those were of a sexual nature.

The judge ruled that sentencing could go ahead without the defendant present, as he had refused to attend it, along with most of the previous court hearings.

Appleby gave his reason as due to the fact that the trial had been “unfair from the start”.

But Judge Shaw said that Appleby’s attempts to disrupt the trial and absent himself from it were all “borne of shame and in the knowledge has has no defence”, especially considering the DNA evidence.

“His protestations of innocence, in my judgement, are the last resorts of a guilty man after a serious incident of sexual abuse against a vulnerable child,” he added.

In his absence, he handed Appleby a 13-year sentence for the charges of sexual assault of a girl under 13 and intimidating a witness. This will be made up of a 12 years in custody, with an additional licence period of one year.

He was also made the subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and he was ordered to pay a statutory surcharge.

Earlier this week, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has promised to change the law to prevent criminals refusing to attend sentencing hearings.

Dominic Raab. Picture: PA
Dominic Raab. Picture: PA

It comes after Thomas Cashman, who has been jailed for life for the murder of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel in Liverpool, refused to face the family of his victim.

On Tuesday Mr Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister, said: “Spineless criminals like Cashman who hide from their sentencing prolong the suffering of victims and their families.

“As I have already made clear, I plan to change the law to compel offenders to face up to their actions, so victims can see the justice they deserve being served.”