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Gloucestershire Business News

Driving instructor sentenced for groping a pupil

A driving instructor who twice groped a shy, young pupil during a lesson has walked free from court with a suspended prison sentence.

Father of five Juma Kagwa, 47, of Horsefair Street, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham, had denied three charges of molesting the 20 year old woman in his driving school car on August 15, 2021, but a jury at Gloucester Crown Court convicted him of two of the charges.

Last Friday, Kagwa was sentenced to a 12-months jail suspended for two years and was ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work and attend 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days. He was also ordered to pay a £156 victim services surcharge.

The judge, Recorder Don Tait, told Kagwa: "If a young woman cannot trust her driving instructor, who is she supposed to be able to trust? You clearly abused that trust.

"You massively upset your victim. You touched her, over her clothing, while you were supposed to be giving her a driving lesson.

"You have quite rightly lost your employment. She was vulnerable in a situation like this. She is a perfectly decent, respectful young woman and she was very brave to be prepared to give evidence against you.

"She quite clearly thinks about her future, but worries about the future of other young women learning to drive. That is very much to her credit.

"Sadly, in these courts, judges have to deal with far more serious offences than these. I have given your circumstances a lot of thought and I feel it is not necessary to send you to prison immediately."

During the trial the jury heard that the woman had 20 driving lessons with Kagwa before the day of the incident.

Prosecutor Neil Treharne said: "She was a shy person who had difficulty making eye contact with other people and she had become concerned that Mr Kagwa had become more and more personal with her during her lessons."

"During lessons his conversation started to become smutty. He once told her 'I like your body and I like your voice.'

"He was saying he wanted to be friends with her after the lessons and when she had passed her test. He asked her about her personal relationships and said 'Why don't you try a guy like me?'

"He also said he liked 'bigger girls' such as her and asked if she liked 'big men' like him."

His behaviour came to a head during a lesson of August 15, said the barrister.

Kagwa touched her left leg with his right hand as she drove, he said.

"He started rubbing his hand up and down over her jeans and across and down the inside of her thigh, using his open palm.

"He went down towards her knee and right up towards her groin. He was telling her while he did this that he was just trying to calm her down.

"Then he said: 'Do you want to try me?'

She replied 'I don't, no.' She felt really uncomfortable at this stage, but she didn't want to say anything to annoy him."

Mr Treharne said Kagwa told her to pull over into a layby and he got out of the car and took the magnetic driving school sign off the car roof.

"She became very scared. She couldn't understand why he did that. She was panicking," said Mr Treharne.

"He told her to drive to Crickley Hill (a country park near Cheltenham). It is a local beauty spot with a car park.

"He instructed her where to park there. He then took the keys out of the ignition and walked around to her side of the car. He opened the door and asked her to get out and go for a walk with him.

"These are not the actions of any normal driving instructor.

"She was feeling very nervous, and she refused to go with him. She thought the worst might happen. She thought she could have been raped.

"She did not want to get hurt and she was afraid to follow him. She stayed in the car while Mr Kagwa went for a walk.

"She then sent a desperate Snapchat message to a friend saying 'Help, I think I'm going to get raped.'

Kagwa returned to the car and as she drove away from the country park he put his arm around the back of her and rubbed her back, the barrister said.

"He moved his hand across her shoulders, squeezing her skin through the top of her jacket. She could feel this through her clothing. "

Mr Treharne said the woman drove back to her home street. She felt angry and worried and she grabbed her bag and left, telling him she did not want his advances and adding 'I don't want to do any of that.'

She later texted him saying she did not want any more lessons from him and she blocked him on her phone, said the prosecutor.

However, Kagwa continued trying to contact her by WhatsApp and he approached her in the street as she walked to work the next day.

When she got into work she broke down and was comforted by concerned colleagues. She then reported Kagwa to the police.

Kagwa insisted in evidence that he had never touched the woman sexually but said he had tried to comfort her because she was stressed about seeing two men she knew crossing the road in front of her and also because she was anxious about having her first proper date with a man that night.

She had become difficult during the lesson, complaining about him overcharging her and she was upset when he told her that he did not think she was test ready, he added.

Before Kagwa was sentenced last Friday, the court heard a victim statement from the woman in which she said "Since passing my driving test, I have begun to have concerns about other learner drivers on the road.

"I am particularly concerned when I see a similar vehicle that I learnt to drive with Kagwa. I often question myself if they are being treated in the same way as I was while I was behind the wheel with the instructor.

"I often feel distressed to think that other learners are facing similar issues and don't know how to deal with it.

"At first, I was really embarrassed and ashamed by what happened to me. But now I am proud of myself in coming forward and highlighting the issue of being a victim of a sexual assault whilst learning to drive."

Zarif Khan, defending, said "Mr Kagwa is a married man and is a father of five children. His youngest suffers from hyperactive syndrome and needs constant attention.

"Since his conviction, he has lost the means to earn a living. He was a licensed driving instructor and a licensed taxi driver. But these roles are no more.

"He earnt a good living, but that's no more. He now has zero income and no savings and is now in debt.

"He was used to a certain lifestyle courtesy of a decent income. That has now vanished. He has now moved to the opposite end of the spectrum and is now on benefits. His wife is in part-time employment.

"When he had funds, he used to make regular donations to a charity that supported orphans in Africa. That has now stopped.

"Each of the incidents were limited in duration. There was no violence. There was no force. It is my suggestion that these are low level offences.

"The pre-sentence report suggests that there is a low risk of re-offending. He is frightened at the prospect of going to prison because it will impact greatly on his family."

The judge imposed a five-year restraining order for Kagwa not to contact his victim by any means and ordered that he be placed on the sex offenders' register for five years. He also made him subject to the rules of the Disclosure Barring Service, which prohibits him being licensed as a taxi driver or acting as a driving instructor.

The judge then spoke directly to the victim, who was sitting in the public gallery, and said: "Thank you for your bravery in coming forward. Kagwa has brought shame on his family. The court is grateful that you had the courage to come and see him receive an appropriate sentence. All the best for the future."

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