A LORRY driver touched a schoolgirl as he passed her in a Hampshire food store.

Matthew Potter, 31, grabbed at the 11-year-old’s bottom half as he passed her in an aisle of the Co-Op in Lymington.

But he was caught in the act on CCTV and later arrested for the sexual assault.

He was found guilty of one count of intentionally touching an underage girl following a trial at Southampton Crown Court.

Now Potter, who himself has a young daughter, has been given a suspended sentence.

The court heard how Potter was leaving the store on March 29 when he saw the victim and her friend, both wearing school uniform, enter the store.

Potter was then seen to re-enter the shop.

When both he and two schoolgirls were standing close to each other Potter reached out and grabbed his victim’s bottom half.

Potter denied sexually assaulting the girl, claiming instead he was reaching for a nearby fridge.

However a jury unanimously found that he had intentionally touched the girl, after hearing that Potter did not open the fridge and did not buy anything from the shop.

Prosecutor Tim Compton told the court that victim had been psychologically impacted by the incident.

Reading a victim impact statement on behalf of the girl’s mother, he said: “She (the victim) was energetic and wanted to go out with friends and felt safe in doing so. This has taken all that away from her.

“By she was happy in life and with friends at school. That has all changed.”

Mr Compton added that the girl had undertaken six weeks of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) since the incident.

In mitigation, Elisabeth Bussey-Jones said Potter had no previous convictions and that the incident had taken place within “one second”.

She said Potter had split up from his wife prior to the incident.

Ms Bussey-Jones urged the judge not to send Potter to jail and instead allow him to take part in a sex offender’s course.

In sentencing, Recorder Simon Foster described Potter’s claim that he had tried to open a fridge door as “palpable nonsense”.

He said: “You never did open the fridge door. This was no accident.

“For the child, this impact of these offences have been serious and grave.

“Some people would say I should lock you up. But I have come to the conclusion that a suspended sentence will mark the seriousness of what you did and meet the ambitions of the court to protect the public from any future offending by you.”

Potter, of Forest Edge, Fawley, was sentenced to nine months, suspended for two years.

He was also ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work, 10 hours of rehabilitation activity requirement and complete a sexual offender’s programme.

Potter was also made the subject of a 10 year sexual harm prevention order and made subject of notification requirements for 10 years.