A 25-year-old man has been sentenced to 20 months in prison for a string of “disturbing” sexual assaults, which included touching women’s buttocks in public.
Desislav Branimov Ivanov, whose address was given as Grampian Prison, appeared at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday. At an earlier hearing his address was given simply as Shetland’s North Mainland.
Ivanov had previously pleaded guilty to eight charges of intentionally or recklessly sexually touching a number of women and a child between May and August this year. Sentencing was deferred at the time for background reports.
This week the court heard a narration of the charges from procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie, who said that Ivanov had engaged in “a course of conduct… redolent of a most unusual form of sexual fetishism”.
Mr MacKenzie said that Ivanov appeared to achieve “sexual gratification” from “surreptitiously touching unsuspecting females” on the buttocks and from visually recording the contact on mobile phones.
Police examining material on two mobile phones and a laptop belonging to Ivanov found “over 7,000 videos of concern over a period of three years”, the fiscal said, adding that only a handful were taken in Shetland. The majority were taken abroad and fell outside of the jurisdiction of the court, Mr MacKenzie said.
Police first became involved after a woman was sexually assaulted on two separate occasions at the Brae Co-op supermarket. On 7th August Ivanov rubbed his hand across her buttocks, the charge states.
“There was a distinct sense of disbelief”, Mr MacKenzie said, and when the woman later reported the incident to her husband she was “visually distressed”.
At the same supermarket later that month Ivanov dropped his hat next to the same woman’s feet. As he crouched to retrieve his hat he then pressed his face against her buttocks while filming himself.
“A member of staff and another shopper were alerted by her screams”, Mr MacKenzie said, and police were informed. Officers seized CCTV footage of both incidents.
The fiscal added that there was “no suggestion that the accused was following the complainer” and that her twice ending up in the supermarket at the same time as him “seems to have just been a coincidence”.
After being identified in CCTV footage Ivanov was detained and interviewed by police, though he answered “no comment” to most questions. Police seized two mobile phones and a laptop and an initial search turned up 209 “videos of concern”.
Three of those videos were identified as having taken place in Shetland leading to a further three charges being brought against Ivanov, who was by then taken into custody where he remained after being refused bail.
This gave police more time to begin an onerous investigation which would eventually turn up “over 7,000 videos of concern”, Mr MacKenzie said.
Eight charges were eventually brought against Ivanov, including one involving touching a child aged between 13 and 16 on the buttocks. In another incident Ivanov was said to have placed his hand on the buttocks of a woman on a bus.
Mr MacKenzie said that the charges amounted to “a disturbing course of conduct” which was “achieved with no concern for the distress that it’s caused the complainers”.
In mitigation defence agent Tommy Allan said that Ivanov’s behaviour was clearly “very bizarre”.
“I don’t have an explanation for it”, he added.
“In some of the cases it’s extremely fleeting”, Mr Allan said, adding that the incidents did not “progress towards groping or fondling” and that some of the victims “aren’t even aware of it”. Nonetheless, his client had to accept that it caused distress to the complainers who were conscious of what had happened.
Ivanov “appears to have some kind of compulsion”, the defence agent added, noting that he had previously received psychological attention for an amphetamine addiction.
By way of punishment his client, whose parents live in Bulgaria, actually favoured the option of deportation Mr Allan said, also noting that Ivanov had already spent the equivalent of a six-month jail term in custody.
Sheriff Philip Mann said that if taken in isolation Ivanov’s offences probably did not merit a custodial sentence for a first-time offender, but the total number of offences led him to favour a custodial sentence.
He said: “When one considers that there are eight charges in total it paints a very disturbing picture of a course of offending which it is clear causes great distress and anxiety to those who are aware that they have been targeted in this way.”
He sentenced Ivanov to two months in custody for each of the seven charges involving adult females and a further six months for the offence involving a child, running to a total of 20 months.
The time in prison will be backdated to when Ivanov first entered custody in August. The sheriff also granted a Crown motion for forfeiture of the two mobile phones and the laptop seized as part of the police investigation.
As for Ivanov’s desire to be deported, that was a matter for the Home Office, Sheriff Mann said.