Man jailed for raping Elland woman he met through an internet chat room

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A convicted rapist has been jailed indefinitely for public protection after he carried out further sex attacks on a woman from Elland who he met through an internet chat room.

Steven Atherton was jailed for six years at Bolton Crown Court in 2005 after he anally raped a woman following a night out.

In November last year a jury found him guilty of three further rape allegations involving a woman from Elland.

Bradford Crown Court heard how Atherton, of Belmont Road, Bolton, Lancashire, raped his latest victim, who cannot be identified, on two separate occasions.

During one of the attacks he forced her head into a pillow causing her difficulty breathing.

Prosecutor Sophie Drake told the court that Atherton’s conviction in 2005 related to an incident in November 2004 when he grabbed a 44-year-old stranger, put his hand over her mouth and anally raped her after pushing her to the ground.

Judge Peter Benson today decided not to impose a life sentence on Atherton, but after concluding that he posed a significant risk of serious harm he said he would be subject to imprisonment for public protection.

“In the circumstances whilst I don’t think a life sentence is justified it seems to me that a sentence of imprisonment for public protection must follow to adequately safeguard the public from the level of risk that you present,” he said.

Atherton now faces a minimum of seven-and-a-half years in jail before he can be considered for release by the Parole Board, but Judge Benson emphasised that he would only be let out if it was decided that the risk was sufficiently reduced so that he could be on licence in the community.

The judge highlighted the fact that during Atherton’s previous prison sentence, he had taken part in a sex offenders treatment programme and an advanced thinking skills programme.

“Despite apparent engagement with those (programmes) it is quite clear that they had no impact upon you in the sense that despite what you learned on those courses you re-offended in the way alleged,” said Judge Benson.

“That gives rise to serious concerns as far as your future risk is concerned.”

Judge Benson told the bearded 33-year-old that he seemed to be someone who if he was determined to have sex with a woman he would would force himself on her despite her wishes.

The judge made a lifetime sexual offences prevention order which bans him from contacting or approaching the complainant.

Atherton will also have to register as a sex offender with the police for life following any release from custody.