Castleford undertaker fined for sex assault before funeral service

Charles Edward Ashton, of Churchfield Lane, Glass Houghton
Charles Edward Ashton, of Churchfield Lane, Glass Houghton

A Castleford funeral director who sexually assaulted a woman before a funeral service has walked free from court.

Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard Charles Edward Ashton, 83, a former director and chairman of Castleford Rugby League Football Club, fondled a woman’s breasts and kissed her on two occasions at a service in August.

District Judge Roy Anderson handed him a £600 fine at the hearing on Tuesday and told him he had only avoided a more robust sentence because of his age.

Judge Anderson said: “You are 83-years-old. You are a well-respected undertaker but you have brought on yourself the utmost shame and disgrace.

“The woman found herself the victim a nasty piece of sexual pestering from you – the effects of which plainly remain with her to this day.

“Were it not for your age I would be dealing with you in a far more robust way but I am prepared to deal with you now by way of a financial penalty.”

Ashton admitted carrying out the assault at a hearing last month.

Prosecutor Amanda Harris told the court: “The defendant asked the victim to sit next to him and she agreed out of politeness. While sitting down he immediately placed his arm around her and gripped her shoulders while making sexual comments to her and two witnesses including ‘you don’t get many of those to the gallon’ while making reference to her breasts.

“She attempted to change the mood by asking what the defendant’s interests were to which the defendant said ‘sex.’

“This comment made her feel uncomfortable. She moved from her seat saying she was going to the bathroom but that was just go get away from him.”

The court heard Ashton continued to make sexual comments to the victim before he fondled her right breast and kissed her on the cheek.

Mrs Harris added: “He then told her he wanted a proper kiss and pulled her head towards him and placed his lips on hers.

“The complainant left the room in a distressed state unsure of what to do and a witness located her and she broke down and told him what had happened.”

Stephen Swan, mitigating, told the court Ashton said he had acted “in a moment of madness he is at a loss to explain.”

He added: “From his perspective, it’s been completely devastating.

“From the very outset he has had a real concern for the victim.”

Mr Swan said Ashton still helps out five-days-a-week at the business, which is now run by his sons.

Ashton was ordered to pay a fine of £600, £1,000 compensation to the victim, a £60 surcharge and £85 costs.

He was also handed a restraining order not to contact the victim, directly or indirectly, for a period of five years.

Passing sentence Judge Anderson said: “Your reputation has been shredded and that seems to me to be something I should take into account.

“For what it’s worth I’m prepared to believe you will not appear in court again charged with this sort of offence. But if you do, then I give you the clearest indication that you will face a far more severe penalty.”

On leaving court Ashton asked reporters: “Are you going to hang me? Are you going to hang me again?”