December 2019

Rapist ‘acted in a predatory manner’ after he targeted vulnerable women

A sexual ‘predator’ who deliberated targeted and raped vulnerable drunk women has been given an 18-year sentence and classed as a ‘dangerous offender’.

Thomas Nichols, of Belfield Road, Accrington, raped a woman as she slept and another in a shed after nights out in Hyndburn.

The 28-year-old was unanimously found guilty of two offences of rape after a five-day trial at Burnley Crown Court.

Judge Sara Dodd said the jury ‘rightly saw through your arrogance’ and sentenced him to 13 years and an extended five-years on licence.

Trial prosecutor Anya Horwood said Nichols met the first victim in the early hours of a morning as she was having a cigarette with a friend in the street.

Nichols approached them asking for cigarette papers and then joined them at the friend’s house for a drink.

After 30 minutes Nichols asked the victim and her friend if they would like to go to a party with him and he took them to his shed

The court heard there was a camp bed and lots of fish tanks and both women were ‘unnerved by that and felt a little uncomfortable’.

Ms Horwood said the women decided to go the victim’s house and they allowed Nichols to join them.

They bought alcohol from a garage and got a taxi to her home and all three were drinking in the lounge.

The court was told that Nichols then started making comments about the victim’s hips and legs.

Ms Horwood said: “She was making it abundantly plain that she had a boyfriend and had no sexual interest in Mr Nichols.”

The prosecutor added that the victim had been drinking for several hours and was ‘very tired and affected by alcohol’ and began to fall asleep.

When her friend said she would go home, the victim asked her to take Nichols with her but he decided to stay.

Ms Horwood said the victim next remembers waking up on the sofa and no longer wearing her trousers. She said: “Mr Nichols was holding her on her stomach and having sex with her.

“She immediately swore at him. She told him to get out. She screamed and Mr Nichols ran from the property.”

Police were contacted and DNA found on her underwear matched Nichols. When the defendant was arrested he denied raping her and said it was ‘consensual sex’.

Nichols then raped a second woman after meeting her at a bar in Accrington.

Ms Horwood said she began talking to the defendant outside in the early hours and he asked her to go back with him.

The victim said she was ‘affected by alcohol’ and a married woman and ‘couldn’t do it’.

The prosecutor told the jury ‘against [the victim’s] better judgement’ she went with him to his shed and that ‘she was concerned but he was reassuring’.

When Nichols went to get them some drinks he returned in his boxer shorts and she ‘felt uncomfortable and said she needed to go home’, the jury heard.

The court heard that Nichols took her arm and began kissing her hand but she pulled away and said she needed to go home.

The prosecutor said Nichols ‘was insisting, told her she came back here and then swore at her’. The victim told Nichols she was ‘very affected by alcohol’ and ‘trying to tell him to stop and trying to push him away’, the court heard.

Ms Horwood said Nichols then raped her.

The court heard that when police later arrested the defendant he told officers that ‘he had taken a young lass back and they had sex’ and that he told police that it was ‘consensual sex’.

At the sentencing hearing on Wednesday, prosecutor Jon Close said they were ‘predatory offences’.

The court heard how one victim was left ‘completely broken’ and ‘barely functioning’ after the attack and was ‘crying uncontrollably’.

She was also suffering ‘flashbacks and nightmares’ and was ‘clinically depressed’.

Mr Close said the second victim was suffering from anxiety and ‘describes the impact as more emotional than physical’.

Defence barrister Andrew Scott said: “The defendant accepts, and given he was convicted by a jury after a trial and secondly given the contents of a comprehensive pre-sentence report, that there is little by way of mitigation I am able to positively advance on the his behalf.

“It’s difficult because the defendant continues to proclaim his innocence in respect of these offences.”

Judge Sara Dodd said Nichols had caused ‘severe psychological harm’ and but said he shouldn’t receive a life sentence for his offending.

She told Nichols: “In each case you asserted these women consented to having sex with you.

“The jury rightly in my judgement saw through your arrogance.

“[One victim] was unconscious and rendered senseless by the amount of alcohol she had taken.

“She was particularly vulnerable and was not able to fight you off or prevent you from raping her.

“This was the targeting of a vulnerable, drunk woman and you were under the influence of alcohol as well.

“I’m entirely satisfied having heard the evidence in the trial that on both occasions in the early hours of the morning you acted in a predatory manner targeting women you considered to be vulnerable.

“Your offences demonstrate that you could be controlling and manipulative and having heard the trial that’s an assessment I agree with. Your arrogance displayed throughout the trial is deeply concerning.

“You have shown no insight into your offending and until you do you remain a danger to women.

“Nothing I have heard or see during the trial makes me think that will change in the near future.”