January 2012

James Haig jailed for grooming and raping girl

A rapist who attacked a 13-year-old girl he groomed online was behind bars last night after his victim’s distressing diary entries were discovered by her horrified mother three years later.

James Haig, 24, preyed on the vulnerable teenager after she logged on to a social networking site in search of friendship following a difficult time at school.

He befriended her then arranged to meet the girl, taking her back to his father’s home where, ignoring her pleas to stop, he raped her.

For three years she suffered in silence, confiding only in her diary, fearing she would get in trouble for meeting a stranger online and then in person.

But last year her mother became concerned about her welfare and resorted to leafing through the girl’s diary where she discovered details of the attack.

Haig was immediately arrested and after a trial last month a Crown Court jury found him guilty of rape. 

He was jailed earlier this week for six years and ordered to sign the sex offenders register for life. He was also banned from ever having contact with children.

It later emerged that Haig had already been convicted of inciting a 15-year-old to engage in sexual activity on a webcam and had also been cautioned in 2008 for having sex with another teenager of the same age. 

Jonathan Devlin, prosecuting, told the court that details of the rape came to light last year when the victim’s mother grew concerned about her daughter’s behaviour.

‘The girl’s mother read her diary and there was an entry relating to this incident,’ he said.

‘She raised the subject with her daughter and she said she had been raped.

‘She said she didn’t say anything at first in case she was blamed, having gone to meet him in the first place.’ 

Mr Devlin said the girl had been experiencing difficulties at school during that time and had turned for support to various social networking sites.

She made contact with Haig  on the tagged.com website, which describes itself as ‘the social networking site for meeting new people’.

Haig had appeared supportive and caring, offering the teenager advice on how to deal with her problems, Newcastle Crown Court was told.

Then, in August 2008, after exchanging several messages, he arranged to meet her.

He later took her to his father’s house in Cramlington, Northumberland, where they watched a DVD together.

The court heard that the youngster, who is now 16 and cannot be named for legal reasons, was then raped despite repeatedly asking her attacker to stop.

Mr Devlin added: ‘She went home, but didn’t say anything at first in case she was blamed for having met him.’

Judge David Wood called Haig  a ‘dangerous offender … who  posed a high risk of committing further offences’.

He also told him: ‘It’s plain she will be greatly affected by this offence, probably for many years  to come.’

Haig, of Ashington, Northumberland, denied raping the girl and insisted the sexual contact he had with his victim was consensual.

David Callan, defending, said: ‘He doesn’t agree with the jury’s verdict of rape, but he accepts he had sexual intercourse with this young lady and that was a crime.

‘He is a lonely, timid individual and has a lung problem and needs an operation.’

Last night, Northumbria Police’s rape investigation team urged parents and carers to be aware of internet safety amid a growing popularity for new technology.

Detective Inspector Paul Race said: ‘We hope this sentence will give some closure to the victim and her family. It has been a very traumatic ordeal.’

He added: ‘I urge any parent  or guardian to be vigilant with  your children’s internet access  and usage.

‘The internet and social sites are in effect faceless, and unbeknown to some youngsters there are people out there who will target and abuse their innocence.’ 

He added: ‘This isn’t just about computers and laptops any more. The smartphone or tablet you may have bought your kids this Christmas is likely to have access to the internet and social outlets.

‘Make sure you are able to maintain their safety on these sorts of devices too.