A man who attacked a schoolgirl as she walked through a Margate park has been jailed.
The victim was walking through Dane Park during the early evening of Tuesday 7 December 2022 when she noticed a man was following and had tried to hide behind a tree when she looked back. The girl phoned her mother, but it was then the man – Steven Palmer – grabbed her from behind and pushed her to the ground.
Palmer tried to remove her clothing, touching her inappropriately and sexually assaulting her.
The incident had been seen by another girl in the park who had also heard the victim scream. The witness ran to a group of nearby dog walkers and alerted them to the crime taking place.
One of the dog walkers shone his torch over the area and found the offender and victim on the ground. He pushed Palmer away from the girl.
Palmer was confronted by the group and he tried to assault one of the men. He was then stopped from leaving the scene while the police were called and he was arrested.
The 45-year-old of Sussex Avenue in Margate was charged with one count of sexual touching of a girl which he admitted at Canterbury Crown Court. An additional offence of common assault against one of the witnesses will lie on file.
Palmer was sentenced today (May 11) to six years in prison and must carry out a further three years on licence once released. He will also be subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.
Investigating officer Detective Lucy Clarke said: “We believe that women and girls should be able to walk alone without risk of attack or abuse, and Kent Police does not tolerate violence against them. Steven Palmer’s attack was a frightening incident and we are thankful to those people that evening who noticed something wasn’t right, and intervened.
“Their community spirit and swiftness to act has meant Palmer is now in prison and unable to pose a threat to anyone else.”
Following the attack there was a community call for better lighting at the park. In January then-Thanet councillor David Wallin said there were proposals to improve district council owned lights at the park with a change to LED and lighting throughout the night rather than set hours.
In 2020 then-ward councillor Gary Taylor urged police and the Thanet Community Safety Partnership to take action following a string of assaults, fires, vandalism and issues with Traveller encampments at the park.
Cllr Wallin and fellow ward councillor Ruth Duckworth, raised the lighting issue last year and a site visit, attended by Mr Wallin, took place in January.
Click here for further information, advice and support relating to Violence Against Women and Girls. This page also includes details on how Kent Police is tackling offences including domestic abuse, stalking, harassment and other forms of violence.