A “DANGEROUS” sex pest faces being deported back to his native Portugal after he was jailed for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in Totton.
Helder Da Costa Ferreira approached the victim – who cannot be named for legal reasons – from behind as she walked to school for a GCSE exam, Southampton Crown Court heard.
He reached under her skirt and touched her leg but backed off when she jumped and shouted “pervert” at him.
The incident came after the defendant, of Milkwood Court, committed three offences in one day in the area – including exposing himself to a 12-year-old girl.
Jailing Da Costa Ferreira, Judge Peter Henry rejected arguments by his barrister he should be released from prison to seek help.
Judge Henry said there was evidence of a worrying “escalation” in offending behaviour and he viewed the defendant as “dangerous”.
Prosecutor Simon Foster told the court Da Costa Ferreira exposed himself to two girls aged 15 and 16 while they waited at a bus stop in the town on the morning of 9th February.
On 8th May he committed three offences, Mr Foster added. During the first, at around 2pm, he touched himself while pursuing a 17-year-old girl who was riding her bike.
Just over two hours later he was spotted by a 12-year-old girl near Hanger Farm in bushes and exposed himself. Mr Foster said: “She described herself as shocked, alarmed and disgusted.”
And at 6.30pm Da Costa Ferreira exposed himself to a 15-year-old girl sitting on a bench, Mr Foster said. He made off and a dog walker assisted the victim, who called police.
The prosecutor said officers conducted an identification parade but that was unsuccessful.
A week later, Da Costa Ferreira committed the sexual assault on the 15-year-old GCSE student, who was wearing headphones. Mr Foster said: “She heard footsteps behind her which suddenly got louder and she felt a hand go up her skirt and try to grab between her legs under her skirt.
“She immediately jumped and managed to jump out of the way and she turned and shouted ‘what the f***?’ By which time the defendant was walking away with a rapidity that indicated to her he wanted to conceal his face, but she saw it – for a few seconds. She shouted ‘pervert’ at him.”
Because she gave a detailed description, officers attended Da Costa Ferreira’s address and arrested him later that day.
Initially in police interview Da Costa Ferreira indicated he was at home with his girlfriend at the time of the offence. But he was re-interviewed after the couple’s stories failed to match and he changed tack to insist he had been seeing his drug dealer.
CCTV evidence placed Da Costa Ferreira with his dog close to the scene of the incident, Mr Foster added.
Mr Foster read out victim impact statements by some of the targeted girls, in which they described feeling “scared”, “paranoid” and having trust issues.
The mother of one girl stated she was “incredibly proud” of her daughter for speaking out. “She has a clear understanding of right and wrong and courage to report something she knows is wrong,” she added.
Da Costa Ferreira had previous convictions for assault occasioning actual bodily harm, battery and possessing a controlled drug, the court heard. He appeared having pleaded guilty to sexual assault, three counts of indecent exposure and one matter of outraging public indecency.
His barrister, Lyall Thompson, pointed out his client was supported in court by his partner. Da Costa Ferreira had been in custody since his arrest, so had already served the equivalent of a 12-month sentence, he said.
It would better serve society if Da Costa Ferreira – who he admitted still did not think he had done anything wrong but was “open minded” to exploring his behaviour – was released back into the community under a “onerous” court order, Mr Thompson maintained.
Da Costa Ferreira’s offending was at the lower end of seriousness, he said. Referring to the sex assault, he added: “It was very unpleasant, but a momentary touching of the legs under the skirt.”
Judge Henry pointed to a report which said Da Costa Ferreira had shown no remorse for his actions and had maintained his offending was not sexually motivated.
Da Costa Ferreira was deemed by probation a “high risk of causing serious harm to children,” Judge Henry said, adding: “I think he is dangerous on the face of things.”
In court a probationer told the judge the Home Office said Da Costa Ferreira would be considered for deportation if he were given a 12-month jail term or more.
Sentencing, Judge Henry opted to send the defendant down for 18 months. While it was the first time Da Costa Ferreira had committed sexual offences, he said there were a number of aggravating features which influenced his decision.
Among those was the sexual motivation, elements of planning and that the offences “escalated” from exposure to an assault. The victims were severely impacted and young, vulnerable schoolgirls, the judge added.
“It’s heavily important children feel safe being able to walk to school and you destroyed that,” Judge Henry told the defendant.
Da Costa Ferreira must sign the sex offenders register for 10 years. He was also given an order that bans him from loitering outside or within 20 metres of a school or leisure centre, or being in the company of children unless he has permission from adults who know of his convictions.