THE police are to obtain a European arrest warrant for the arrest of a former Coventry man who fled the country before he was due to stand trial for groping a teenage girl.
Jose Vieira had pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court earlier this year to two charges of sexual activity with a child.
But Vieira (43) who was living at an address in Coventry at the time of the offences, failed to turn up at the court on the first day of his trial.
So Judge Peter Cooke issued a warrant for his arrest, and ordered that the trial should continue in his absence.
Elizabeth Power, who was to have represented Vieira, then withdrew from the case.
She explained that because Vieira had fled before giving any instructions to his solicitors or completing a defence case statement, she had no case to present on his behalf.
So the trial went ahead in without Vieira, whose most recent address in this country was in Lambeth, London, and without anyone to represent him.
Prosecutor Peter Arnold said the two charges represented two stages of a single incident which took place last year.
Vieira’s victim, who was 15 at the time, said in a recorded interview played to the jury that it happened as she was watching a film at an address in Coventry.
Vieira, who was sitting next to her, started to stroke her back, and then put his hand inside her top and undid her bra.
That, Mr Arnold explained, was the activity covered by the first charge.
And the girl said that after that, ‘he started playing with my boobs and touching my nipples’ before she got up and walked away from him.
After the jury returned its unanimous guilty verdicts, Judge Cooke remarked: “That gives rise to how we proceed from here.
“It is legal to sentence someone in absentia, as it is to try them in their absence, but before I do that, I would like to know what the impact has been on her.”
He said he would therefore adjourn sentencing for an impact statement to be obtained from the girl or one of her parents, and to allow time for Vieira to be arrested.
The judge explained to the jury: “It is the Crown’s belief that he has gone back to Portugal. He did so without giving any meaningful account to his lawyers, which is why he’s not represented.”
Mr Arnold said that, following the conviction, the police would now be applying for a European arrest warrant for Vieira to be arrested and brought back to this country to be sentenced.
To allow time for that process to be carried out, Judge Cooke adjourned the case until October, and said he would sentence Vieira at Wolverhampton Crown Court, where he will then be sitting.
But he pointed out that guidelines indicated a ‘starting point’ of three years, with a sentencing range of between two and six years.