By Northampton Chronicle & Echo
NORTHAMPTON – A 25-YEAR-OLD man has been sentenced to 16 months in prison after sexually assaulting a woman near Weston Favell Police Station.
Rodney Tavaguta, of St Johns Street, represented himself at his sentencing hearing at Northampton Crown Court on Thursday, February 16 after a jury found him guilty of two counts of sexual assault.
The court heard that – in the early hours of July 12, 2022 – Tavaguta had been out drinking with a group when he was left alone with a young woman and he took advantage of her “vulnerable state” by touching her sexually without her consent.
Following the sexual assault, the victim was informed that Tavaguta had HIV so she had to go to the hospital to get tested and then endure a week being scared of intimacy as she awaited the results, the court heard. In a statement, the victim said:
“When I am on my own, I get really down. I have flashbacks and, every time I have these, I feel suicidal. Because of him, I feel I can no longer go on nights out or go outside. I am scared it will happen again.”
As the victim’s full statement was read aloud in court, Tavaguta – who appeared via video link from prison – frantically took notes.
The court heard that Tavaguta had become suspicious of his lawyer and sacked him in the middle of his trial, opting to represent himself instead.
There was no pre-sentence report because Tavaguta ignored probation officers’ attempts to contact him and he refused to engage in the process, the court heard.
His Honour Judge David Herbert KC told the defendant: “You are where you are because of your decisions during the trial.” Judge Herbert asked Tavaguta what his future plans are.
The defendant responded: “I’m going to lay low and not be involved with anyone, to be honest.” The court heard that Tavaguta grew up in Zimbabwe and spent nearly a year studying at a university in Canada before he had to leave due to unspecified “unfortunate circumstances.”
He went on to obtain a visa to come to Northampton in 2021 to study computer engineering and technology at the University of Northampton. Tavaguta was suspended from his university course after the sexual assault took place and he has been remanded in custody for seven months.
As Judge Herbert took a few moments to decide on Tavaguta’s fate, the defendant requested a temporary recess to vape in order to “de-stress.”
This was allowed for around two minutes. Judge Herbert, in his sentencing remarks, said: “You practically admitted your offending to police and yet denied your offending to the very end before the jury.
“This incident was very distressing for her. Her distress is evident from the footage of her at Weston Favell Police Station that I saw during the trial.” He added: “It is plain there is no remorse for what happened.” Tavaguta was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment and a restraining order was imposed between him and the victim for five years. Having served seven months in prison already, he will be eligible for parole in one month.