Published: 17:39, 20 April 2018
| Updated: 17:36, 24 April 2018
A teenage refugee who molested and tried to strangle a young woman as she waited for a lift home outside McDonald's has been spared custody.
Eritrean Filmon Kbrom targeted the lone 25-year-old at 5am on July 18 last year after a night out in Maidstone.
Having urged her to follow him while grabbing at his crotch, the 18-year-old grabbed her by the wrists before trying to throttle her.
As the terrified 25-year-old fought him off, Kbrom, who came to the UK as an asylum seeker two years ago, grabbed her breast.
He then used his fingers to grip inside her mouth 'like a fish hook', Maidstone Crown Court heard today.
But in spite of her fear and pain, the woman screamed and the teenager ran off.
Part of the incident at the 'drive-thru' branch in Hart Street - opposite the crown court building - was captured on CCTV and Kbrom was arrested.
He admitted sexual assault and faced being locked up for between two to four years.
But a judge decided that there were exceptional circumstances which enabled him to avoid sending Kbrom to a young offenders' institution.
He instead imposed a sentence of 19 months' youth custody suspended for two years.
But Judge Philip Statman was unable to include a condition that he attends a 'vigorous and intensive' sex offender treatment programme, as is usually imposed in such cases, due to Kbrom's basic knowledge of the English language.
He was told the probation service, who run such courses, were unable to provide interpreters for offenders as a result of both practical and funding issues.
Such a programme is also not available in prisons for foreign sex offenders with limited language skills for the same reasons.
Judge Statman did, however, impose conditions of 180 hours' unpaid work, a 10-month tagged curfew between 8pm and 7am, and a 30-day rehabilitation activity requirement.
He told Kbrom, who was assisted in court by a Tigrinya interpreter, that was the appropriate punishment, and one which would best protect the community.
"I have a duty to protect your victim, I also have a duty to protect the public, and with someone of your age I also have to consider how you can best be rehabilitated," said the judge.
"There are cases which cause the courts very real concern and I have had to give the most anxious consideration as to the correct sentence.
"Your victim has suffered considerably. You are still a young man and I understand that you have witnessed horrible events in your childhood and adolescent years."
Adding that justice in this case could be 'tempered with mercy', judge Statman concluded: "This has been a very difficult sentencing exercise in which I have to do as best I can to impose an appropriate punishment against a background which, in my judgment, is a highly unusual one.
"It is in my view, on all that I have read about this defendant, an exceptional case, and on occasion exceptional cases require an exceptional course to be taken."
The court heard the victim was left fearing she would be strangled or raped when she was accosted by a heavily intoxicated Fbrom as she phoned a friend.
The teen had seen the woman in a bar earlier that night and it was said he may have 'recognised' her when he spotted her outside the fast food outlet.
Prosecutor Ben Irwin said Fbrom asked the woman to follow him, saying he wanted to 'show her something' and grabbing hold of his penis.
She politely refused, saying 'No thank you', but the incident quickly escalated.
"He took hold of her, grabbed her wrist and tried to pull her with him. He then strangled her, which caused bruises on her neck," said Mr Irwin.
"It caused her to stop breathing and made her feel light-headed.
“She thought she was going to faint and was scared because she didn't know what was going to happen.
"I didn't know what was going to happen... he could have strangled me or raped me" - Kbrom's victim
"She was able to push him away but he then grabbed her left wrist.
She said 'Get off me' and tried to push him away.
"But he then grabbed her on her right breast and left her feeling tender.
“She pushed him away and he then grabbed her mouth.
"She told police 'His fingers went in my mouth like a fish hook and he held my cheek'.
“She then screamed and he ran off."
The court heard the woman described feeling scared and feared she would not see her child again.
"I didn't know what was going to happen. He could have strangled me or raped me,” she said.
“It makes me scared to go out alone. I don't feel safe," she told police.
Kbrom, who lives in shared accommodation in Wheeler Street, Maidstone, came to the UK alone as a refugee and now has asylum status
The court heard that the Orthodox Christian suffered traumatic experiences in his homeland, and at 14 was incarcerated by the Eritrean government and 'severely mistreated'.
He cannot return to see his parents and siblings, and has limited contact with them.
Kbrom is supported in the UK by a social worker and a voluntary organisation known as Kent Kindness, and is currently studying basic English and maths at college.
Lucy Sweetland, defending, said the teenager had drunk 'to excess' for the first time that night, and had not planned or set out to attack his victim.
She added all those that knew him had described his behaviour as extremely out of character, and he had not been out at night or drunk alcohol since.
Kbrom will have to sign on the sex offender register for 10 years and attend monthly reviews of his progress with Judge Statman over the next two years.