November 2019

Darlington sexual predator back behind bars for hiding his identity

A convicted child rapist is back behind bars after failing to declare his true identity to a woman he started a relationship with.

Luke Harding was branded a high risk to the public after his latest court appearance.

Teesside Crown Court heard how his sexual offending started in 2015 when he was convicted of raping a heavily intoxicated 12-year-old girl during a party in a Darlington field.

Jenny Haigh, prosecuting, said the defendant, calling himself Luke Saunders, met a woman while out drinking in Darlington in September and took her back to his home.

Following a brief relationship, Miss Haigh said the woman became increasingly ‘freaked out’ about by his erratic and increasingly ‘creepy’ behaviour towards helping her look after her very young sister.

It was only after she did an internet search of the defendant that she learned his true identity and realised that he was a convicted sex offender.

After alerting the police to his behaviour he was arrested and charged with two offences of breaching his notification requirement.

Miss Haigh said the 21-year-old was given a community order for two rapes of the 12-year-old girl and was again back before a court for having consensual sex with a teenage girl in the grounds of Blackwell Golf Club in 2016. He later sent a picture of his genitals to another 12-year-old girl.

She added Harding had also attempted to make contact with the teenage sister of another person living in a centre for vulnerable young people in Hartlepool.

And in 2017 he was convicted of breaching his Sexual Harm Prevention Order after using a pseudonym ‘BoroLad12’ online to access dating website ‘Plenty of Fish’.

In mitigation, James Fenny, said the relationship had only lasted a few days and the defendant had never been in contact with the child.

He said: “He is a young man, he is 21, perhaps in his case the public would be better served with probation and the monitoring him with a sentence hanging over him for a considerable time and the court doesn’t lose touch with him.”

Judge Deborah Sherwin gave Harding, of Major Street, Darlington, two concurrent two year sentences for the breaches of his SHPO.

She said he had shown a ‘total inability to be honest’ with the people tasked with managing him while living in the community.

Dealing with the two offences, she added: “You lied to her about your name, you failed to tell her about your convictions and you failed to tell your offender manager about your relationship and that you were staying at a house where a young child stayed at weekends.

“I have no faith whatsoever that you will comply with any order, I think you will take it as a licence to continue lying and being deceitful to those who are looking after you.

“If this relationship had continued, and you clearly wanted it to, that would have brought you into contact with her young sister.”