A NEWTON Abbot man has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for raping and indecently assaulting three children.
Stuart Saunders, 52, of Sheldon Road, pleaded guilty to 13 offences, including five rapes, on children under the age of 13.
Judge Graham Cottle, sentencing him at Exeter Crown Court, said Saunders’ ‘catalogue of abuse’ had had a ‘catastrophic’ effect on the victims.
The court was told that Saunders would use bribery, coercion and in some cases threats to commit the offences.
His sentence brings to an end a three-year police investigation during which time Saunders had continually denied the charges.
Saunders had originally denied all the allegations and a trial date was set for the start of April.
But in January he tried to commit suicide in an effort, the judge said, to avoid responsibility and frustrate the legal process.
Judge Cottle said during Saunders’ recovery consideration was given to abandoning the trial, but all three victims wanted to see the case go to court and make Saunders answer the allegations.
Prosecuting, Mary McCarthy told the court the girls were abused and raped on numerous occasions. The allegations came to light when one of the victims came forward in 2007.
Mitigating, David Evans said Saunders was finally coming to terms with his true nature by owning up to his crimes.
Judge Cottle told the defendant: “You have pleaded guilty to what can only be described as a catalogue of serious sexual abuse against three victims.”
The judge referred to victim impact statements made by the children. “It is quite clear that the consequences for the victims were catastrophic,” he said.
The bespectacled Saunders showed little emotion as the sentence was read out and he was taken from the court.
Saunders was given a total of 16 years in prison made up of concurrent 14 and 12-year terms for the rape offences and consecutive two-year terms for the sexual assaults.
He was told he would serve half of that in custody and be made the subject of a sexual offences prevention order.
He was also given a 12-month concurrent term for making a false representation to obtain a passport.
Following the hearing DC Andrew Vaughan of the child abuse investigation unit Torquay, said: “At no time has Saunders shown any remorse to his victims in order to stop them being put through three years of sheer hell.
“Not only have they had to deal with the serious nature of the offences and the physical cost it has had on them, but also the lengthy legal process because of his selfish actions.”