Man jailed after sexually assaulting woman he followed through Darlington town centre

Michael Gallagher was jailed after he followed a woman through Darlington town centre before dragging her behind a wall and sexually assaulting her. Credit: Durham Police

A man who was arrested just minutes after he sexually assaulted a woman in the street has been jailed.

Michael Gallagher was caught on CCTV following the woman as she walked home through Darlington town centre in the early hours of 30 June this year.

After following her down several streets, the 33-year-old dragged the woman behind a wall and sexually assaulted her.

Her screams caused the man to flee the scene, and she was able to call the police.

He was found by officers 15 minutes later and he was tasered and brought into custody for questioning.

He was charged with sexual assault and trespass with intent to commit a sexual offence following an incident which occurred just an hour earlier, in which he broke into a woman’s bedroom and attempted to assault her.

The woman had managed to fight him off before she locked herself in a bathroom and called the police.

Gallagher, of Westmoreland Street, in Darlington, pleaded guilty to both offences and appeared at Teesside Crown Court on Friday 22 September, where he was jailed for 14 years, plus an additional two years on extended licence.

During the hearing, one of the women told the court how her life had changed since the incident.

“This incident has had a huge effect on me and my family in the short time since it happened,” she said.

“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, 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.”

He added: “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.

“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.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...