Rotherham United player headbutted woman while out celebrating not guilty verdict in rape case

Simon Lenighan outside court
Simon Lenighan outside court
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A new Rotherham United player has been spared jail after a headbutting a girl on a drunken night out as he celebrated being found not guilty in a rape case.

Simon Lenighan, who joined The Millers last week and is yet to play for the first team, has been suspended by the club after he was spared jail over the incident yesterday.

The 21-year-old, of Parliament Terrace, Harrogate, pleaded guilty to assaulting Leah Davey on February 27 at Harrogate Magistrates Court.

He also assaulted two of the woman’s friends after they had an altercation outside a nightclub in Harrogate in the early hours of the morning.

The court’s probation officer explained that Lenighan was out celebrating his ‘not guilty’ verdict following a case where he had been accused of raping a young girl.

Prosecutor Kim Coley explained how, after leaving The Viper Rooms at around 4am, Lenighan approached a group of girls who were having an argument, including Ms Davey.

Lenighan then became involved in the argument and CCTV shown to the court revealed the 21-year-old pushing Ms Davey to the floor with both hands.

Ms Davey returned to her feet where she was then grabbed on the wrist by Lenighan, pulling off her £100 Michael Koors watch and throwing it against the wall.

CCTV then showed Lenighan headbutting Ms Davey on the nose before striking her friends Ella Torry and Sheridan Douglas.

Lenighan pleaded guilty to assaulting all three women, as well as damaging Ms Davey’s watch valued at £100 during the drunken attack.

In a witness statement read out in court, Ms Torry said that Lenighan ‘lost it’ comparing him to a psychopath as he said ‘push me again, I dare you. Then you will see what happens’.

During the celebratory night out, Lenighan approached the group of girls arguing before one of the victims said to him ‘I know who you are, you are a rapist, get your hands off me.’”

Probation officer, Ms Wright, said: “The court case was ongoing for three years and Mr Lenighan was found not guilty. It was a very difficult period of his life and he felt like his life was on hold.

“The alleged victim at the time lived in Harrogate. He avoided going out but two weeks after the verdict, he went out with a friend to celebrate.

“He admits he drank a substantial amount but he had a good night. He went to Viper Rooms and saw people that he knew who congratulated him on the result of his court case and bought him drinks.

“He says the attack was out of character, he has no previous convictions for violence and he wants to apologise for the way he reacted. He’s adamant that this would not happen again.”

On the CCTV footage, Lenighan is seen trying to approach his victims on numerous occasions, eventually pulling his coat off and throwing it to the ground in anger.

Ms Wright explained that the victim’s comments had created a ‘heightened emotional state’ resulting in Lenighan’s aggressive behaviour as he tried to ‘get his point across’.

Defending Lenighan, Clint Chambers said that similar comments had been made to the defendant on a football pitch, but he was more riled when coming from a member of the public.

He said: “When this incident happened he had just been found not guilty so he felt able to go into Harrogate, felt relaxed for the first time, and was able to have a drink.

“He had quite a bit to drink. He wishes he had not got involved and carried on walking. He would like to apologise for his behaviour and is keen to move on with his life.”

Magistrate David Uffindall credited Lenighan for his late guilty plea and sentenced him to a community order for 12 months, including 150 hours of unpaid work.

He was also ordered to pay £200 in damages to Ms Davey, £50 to Ms Torry and £50 to Ms Douglas as well as £300 in court costs and a victim surcharge of £60.

Lenighan currently plays for Rotherham United after being released from Leeds United in 2012 and Harrogate Town earlier this year.

A statement from Rotherham said: “The club can announce that following recent reported events in the press and having spoken with the player concerned, it has decided to suspend Simon Lenighan pending an investigation into the matter.

“The club will make a further statement as and when appropriate but will not do so whilst the matter is under investigation.

“The club hopes to finalise its investigation in a speedy manner and will make further comment as and when appropriate to do so.”