A 28-YEAR-OLD man sexually assaulted a woman as she slept on the bed next to him.

Blackburn magistrates heard a mutual male friend, who had also slept on the bed, witnessed the early morning interference.

But the victim was totally unaware she had been assaulted until the witness told her what had happened.

Richard Major-Smith, of Earl Street, Colne, pleaded guilty to sexual assault.

He was committed on bail to Preston Crown Court to be sentenced on December 3 after the magistrates ruled their powers of punishment were insufficient.

Tracy Yates, prosecuting, said the victim, the defendant, the witness and another female had been out together and went back to the victim's Blackburn home where they carried on drinking and talking on the bed.

They all fell asleep until 7am when the witness woke up and saw his friend touching the aggrieved in her private parts.

As he watched Major-Smith pulled her top out and looked at her breasts before touching them.

"He told the defendant to get out and they went outside and talked before the witness went back in and told the female what had happened," said Mrs Yates.

She said at first the witness had not been sure if the victim was consenting and participating.

"Nothing had happened between them before," said Mrs Yates.

"When she started snoring he realised she was asleep."

When the victim was told what had happened she started crying and said she felt "violated".

Geoff Ireland, defending, said the four friends had been drinking together and when they fell asleep on the bed they were all fully clothed.

He said what the witness told the police was different to what his client had told them.

"My client actually admitted that he had touched the aggrieved under her clothing and not just over it as the witness reported," said Mr Ireland.

He said Major-Smith had surrendered himself to the police before the offence had been reported to them.

"He was deeply ashamed and remorseful and wanted to tell the truth about what had happened," said Mr Ireland.

"My client was lodging with the male witness at the time and he made it clear their friendship was over and he had to move out."

Mr Ireland said clearly the victim had been violated by what had taken place and his client's conduct towards her was unforgivable.

"It is helpful that the victim has attended court because it enables me to tell her, on his behalf, how sorry he is for his behaviour on that morning," said Mr Ireland.