Rapist held indefinitely ‘for public protection’

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A CONVICTED rapist has been jailed indefinitely for public protection after he carried out further sex attacks on a second woman after meeting her through an internet chat room.

Steven Atherton, 33, was jailed for six years at Bolton Crown Court in 2005 after he raped a woman following a night out, but in November last year a jury found him guilty of three further rape allegations involving a woman from the Elland area of West Yorkshire.

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 attack on a 44-year-old stranger in November 2004.

Judge Peter Benson yesterday 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.”

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.

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