A 'dangerous' Darlington man has been jailed for more than a decade after committing two harrowing sexual offences.
Michael Gallagher, 33, from West Moreland Street in Darlington, pleaded guilty to sexual assault and trespass with intent to commit a sexual offence at Teesside Crown Court today (September 22) where he was jailed for 14 years, plus an additional two years on extended licence.
Gallagher was caught on CCTV following a woman through several streets as she walked home through Darlington town centre in the early hours of June 30 this year, before he dragged her behind a wall and sexually assaulted her.
The woman managed to scream, causing the man to flee the scene, and called the police who located Gallagher 15 minutes later, tasering him and bringing him into custody for questioning.
An hour earlier, Gallagher broke into a woman’s bedroom and attempted to assault her, before the woman fought him off and locked herself in a bathroom, calling the police.
Gallagher was interviewed by officers, during which he gave no comment answers, and charged with both offences.
One of the women told the court how the ordeal had left her wary of those around her and sleeping in her parents room for comfort.
She said: “This incident has had a huge effect on me and my family in the short time since it happened.”
“Simple things like walking down the street have become tough for me, I find myself crossing the road when people come towards me or are walking on the same side of the road.
“I have had trouble sleeping and I think about what has happened all the time; every time I close my eyes, I just see the man’s eyes staring back at me. I have had to seek comfort by sleeping in the same bed as my mum, it was the only way I could feel safe.
“This has also been extremely hard on my parents. However, despite all this and how horrible the incident was, our family has come out of it stronger than ever.
“After I told my parents about what happened they did everything they possibly could to support me. They are honestly the best parents I could ever have wished for, and I couldn’t have got this far without them.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the police officers and detectives that have been involved in my case. I have felt supported throughout and they have kept me informed which has made this whole process easier.
“I never want anyone to go through what I went through that morning and I hope that the man who did this to me never gets to hurt anyone else in that way again.”
PC Colin Dodgson, from Darlington CID, who led the investigation, called Gallagher an extremely dangerous individual and praised the bravery of both women.
He said: “Gallagher is an extremely dangerous individual who poses a significant risk to women.
“Both the women he attacked have shown incredible levels of bravery in reporting what had happened to them and providing powerful testimonies; they should feel proud that by doing so has resulted in a dangerous man being put behind bars.
“The suffering these women went through at the hands of Gallagher, who is a complete stranger to them, is harrowing and has had a far-reaching impact on both of their lives.
“While nothing can take away the pain of what happened, I hope that today’s sentence brings them some closure and allows them to rebuild their lives.”
“This was a joint effort by response officers and the B and C Teams at Darlington CID to bring a really dangerous individual off the streets.
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“I hope today’s outcome shows other survivors of sexual offences that we treat these dreadful crimes extremely seriously, and will work hard to help bring offenders to justice.”
Anyone who has suffered sexual abuse should come forward and report it to police by calling 101, or 999 in an emergency.
If they do not wish to speak to a police officer, survivors can contact The Meadows Sexual Assault Referral Centre on 0330 223 0099 or visit www.sarcdurham.co.uk