A CHARITY boss has been branded a sex pest after owning up to indecent assaults on two disabled women.
Richard Day, 59, this week resigned as chairman of Accrington Shopmobility after being confronted by the Observer. He had earlier been given an official caution by police and put on the Sex Offenders' Register after a lengthy investigation. Cautions can only be given to people who admit their guilt and agree to accept them.
Inspector Phil Cottam, head of Accrington Police, said: "I can confirm that a police investigation has been undertaken into a number of allegations of indecent assault committed by a 59-year-old Accrington man. As a result of these inquiries, this person received a formal police caution on 22 August this year.
"As a result of this caution being given, a formal entry has been made on the Sex Offenders' Register following Crown Prosecution Service advice and a number of other agencies have been notified that the caution has been administered.''
He added: "It has been a difficult case for the officer concerned, who has put in a great deal of effort to consider the interests of the victims and to bring this person to justice.''
Police sources confirmed that the two victims were both classified as disabled and that it had been a "delicate inquiry''. It is understood the victims had been consulted throughout the probe and it was felt their state of health might make it traumatic for them to give evidence in court.
Day helped found Accrington Shopmobility and has run it from premises in Whalley Road since 1999. The registered charity run by volunteers hires out electric scooters, power chairs and wheelchairs to disabled people so they can do their shopping in Accrington town centre for a small donation.
The high-profile scheme has been praised by councillors, traders and the disabled themselves.
Day's two victims had worked as volunteers for Shopmobility. One woman, a 51-year-old rheumatoid arthritis sufferer, said she was indecently assaulted in the shop and was unable to fight back because of her illness. She was too afraid to go to the police at the time but came forward after a colleague claimed she too had been assaulted.
The woman said she was horrified to learn Day had only received a police caution. She said: "I am scared to go into Accrington and he is walking around like nothing has happened. All he has got is a slap on the wrist. Where's the justice in that?''
The second victim, a 60-year-old disabled woman who lives alone in a specially-adapted semi-detached house in Accrington, said Day made a crude remark to her in a lift at Accrington Town Hall and she was later assaulted as she struggled to get into a car. She said: "He was in a position of trust. He is a nasty man who targets vulnerable people who are wheelchair-bound.''
Some weeks later she met the first victim and they discovered they had each gone through a similar ordeal. She said: "I felt relieved. I thought thank God I'm not on my own.''
When we first spoke to Day he said he had offered his resignation but the 10-strong committee had refused to accept it. But on Wednesday he said he had quit the previous night. He said his wife Pat, who stood as a Conservative councillor in this year's council elections, was standing by him.
Speaking outside his home in Lowergate Road, Huncoat, he claimed the assaults were "an accident'' and that he was being victimised. He said it was "quicker and easier'' to accept the police caution as it meant he wouldn't have to got through the courts which would have been traumatic for his wife and affected the running of the business.
He added: "My wife hasn't slept a wink all night. Now I'll have to look around for a buyer to come in and save the shop or the charity will go under.''
Rosemary Ralph, national officer for the National Federation of Shopmobility based in London, said: "Naturally we are concerned to hear of problems with any of our member schemes. However, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on this particular issue as we have not been involved and are not aware of the circumstances surrounding the matter.
"The Accrington Shopmobility scheme is run as a completely independent charity. Should the trustees of the charity feel they need guidance from the national federation I am sure they contact me.''
Accrington Shopmobility ran into problems in April this year when Morecambe-based Lakesway Mobility withdrew its financial backing after just a year. In return for its sponsorship it sold mobility aids from the shop.
Marketing manager Paul Cartwright said at the time: "Things were not running as they should have been.''