A couple who targeted an ‘extremely vulnerable’ young woman and subjected her to a sexual assault on a Nottingham street have been jailed.

Joseph Penado and Michelle Cooper were both found guilty of sexual assault following a trial in January.

Penado, 52, of Woodborough Road, St Ann’s, also admitted possessing a bladed article during the same incident.

The court heard how Cooper, 50, of Stratford Close, Colwick, targeted the woman in her early 20s in the early hours of July 29 last year while she was walking alone up Woodborough Road, Nottingham.

The victim had spent the evening in the city centre enjoying a night out with friends and was on her way home when Cooper approached her. Cooper initially acted in a friendly manner, showing concern for her welfare.

However, Cooper then told the victim her husband was coming and a short time later Penado arrived and carried out a sexual assault.

Penado and Cooper then lured the victim into their car and began to drive her around the St Ann’s area before stopping on Manning Street, off Woodborough Road, where all three stepped back out onto the street.

Penado subjected the victim to a further sexual assault and Cooper forced the victim to hand over her mobile phone, before again luring her back into the car and driving off. The scene had drawn the attention of a CCTV operator who had concerns for the young girl and alerted police officers.

Officers quickly attended and the car was stopped close to Woodborough Road. A knife with an eight-inch blade was also later recovered from the boot of the vehicle.

Penado and Cooper denied the sexual assault offences and theft of the victim’s mobile phone but the pair were convicted following a trial in January. Penado subsequently admitted a further charge of possession of a bladed article.

Both were sentenced yesterday at Nottingham Crown Court – Penado to three-and-a-half years and Michelle Cooper to three.

Det Insp Yvonne Dales said: “This is a concerning case where the two defendants appear to have identified an intoxicated and thereby extremely vulnerable victim to prey on.

“Penado and Cooper will have been fully aware that the victim was in no position to give any consent to anything which was happening to her that night.

“It is distressing to know that there are people out there who will look to take advantage of a lone woman in a vulnerable position.

“We are extremely grateful to the alert and quick-thinking CCTV operator who was able to identify a situation which required police action and quickly inform our officers. As a result, we were able to swiftly make an arrest whilst the offences were taking place.”

Det Con Rebecca Butler paid tribute to the victim for her bravery throughout the court proceedings.

She said: “This case has been particularly harrowing for the victim, not only to have been subjected to such a horrific sexual assault but then to have to re-live it by being shown the CCTV of it happening during the trial.

“Credit must be paid to her for attending court and having the courage to give evidence and ensure that people like this are taken off our streets.”