Cotswolds man raped a vulnerable teen and sexually assaulting two young girls
A 52-year old Cotswolds man has been jailed for 20 years for raping a vulnerable teenager and sexually assaulting two young girls.
At Gloucester Crown Court Judge Ian Lawrie QC told Stephen Stuckle of Melmore Gardens, Cirencester, that the hallmark of his offending was his ‘persistence in sexually abusing three highly vulnerable and emotionally fragile young females’.
“Your persistent offending leaves me in no doubt, that when the opportunity was presents itself, you clearly targeted the victims,” the judge said.
Prosecutor Robin Shellard said the case concerned three unrelated victims who were vulnerable either because of their age or personal circumstances or mental capacity, or a combination of all these factors.
A police investigation began in July 2019 after one victim reported what had happened to her.
“Victim A was 13 at the time of the sexual assaults, a period in her life when she was also diagnosed with higher predictive function disorder; autistic spectrum disorder, hypersensitivity and development coordination disorder along with challenging behaviour.
“Stuckle began his relationship with this girl in 2016. On June 27th 2019 the girl was reported missing from home and when she was found a youth support worker investigated the reasons as to why she had left home.
“She disclosed to the support worker that she was sexually assaulted by Stuckle while on a camping trip.
“Following these discussions the police were called in. Their investigations uncovered that she had gone on a camping trip with Stuckle three years earlier.
“She explained that Stuckle would regularly embark on ‘tickle fights.’ She said it would begin innocently enough with him tickling her on her back and her legs.
“But during these tickle fights her bra would always come off. When she got ready for bed she would put her pyjamas on, but Stuckle would continue to tickle her. She said that she began to feel uncomfortable at this point. Clearly this was sexual grooming.
“She struggled to sleep and rejected proposals for her to sleep next to Stuckle. However, when she did manage to get some sleep, she would wake to find Stuckle’s hands in her pyjama bottoms. She immediately moved to make him take his hands away.
“In the morning she was taken back home and told her mother. She explained to her that the tickling fights would begin with him pretending to be a monster. He would tickle her on top of her clothes before going underneath her clothing and this included removing her bra.
“She said that she did not like the kind of playing that Stuckle was subjecting her to. Stuckle was challenged about this by the girl’s mother.
“The victim describes Stuckle as being ‘horrible’. He would shout at her and tell her to do things. She said he called her names and she felt like she was being bullied. “
Stuckle was arrested while at a campsite in Devon in July 2019 and his phone was seized. Four videos were found on it. Two of them featured Victim A, who was shown drying her legs with a towel and was heard to tell Stuckle to ‘stop’ in one video. Another featured a close up of the girl’s legs.
A major police investigation was then launched into Stuckle’s past and this uncovered two other victims.
The second victim had been diagnosed as being emotionally unstable and being on the autistic spectrum. She had spent some time in various institutions managing her disabilities.
In 2017, Victim B was an adult teenager living in supported accommodation in Bristol. Stuckle was working as a security guard at Southmead Hospital. She was regularly attending hospital for treatment because of her attempts to take her own life and incidents of self harming.
“The teenage victim could not have been more vulnerable and she told the police that she first met him while she was at the hospital accident and emergency department and Stuckle had been assigned to stop her absconding from hospital.
“She saw Stuckle when she was having crisis moments in a multi-storey car park. He said to her that he understood the mental health issues she was suffering from.
“Due to their interaction together she gave Stuckle her phone number. She told him that she hated where she was living and had no one else to turn to. She just wanted a friend, she confided.
“Stuckle would then contact her by text. He would tell her he was lonely and didn’t really have anybody else to speak to.
Stuckle would then contact her by text. He would tell her he was lonely and didn’t really have anybody else to speak to.
“Victim B told the police that they had further meetings at the hospital and would sit together on a bench in the grounds. On one occasion he wanted to go somewhere more private and he took her to a building that was locked.
“He had a key and gained access and whilst in the foyer he persuaded her to lie on the floor and he began touching her all over. He would put his hands into the waistband of her jeans and soon he was inserting his fingers into her private parts. She said that she tried to pull her hand out, but she couldn’t as he was too strong for her.
“She said she froze and had an out of the body experience. She said that Stuckle only moved when another security guard came round and checked the exterior and shone a light into the building and saw nothing untoward and moved on.
“Shortly afterwards he received a call on his radio, after which they got dressed and left.
“The victim’s supporting accommodation manager picked her up from the hospital and saw that she was confused and was in shock.
“However Stuckle still kept in touch with the girl and he continued to send her demanding text messages. She became confused by these messages and agreed to meet him again in the hospital. He took her back to the same room in the outbuilding and repeated his actions and sexually abused her.
“The girl eventually realised that Stuckle was married and not single, as he had previously claimed. At the same time the manager of the supported housing accommodation raised his concerns over Stuckle’s relationship with Victim B as they were of the opinion she was being exploited by him.”
The court was told that an investigation was instigated following the concerns raised. The victim told a mental health nurse about Stuckle’s actions and she was referred to social care for support
Stuckle was subjected to disciplinary proceedings and he was formally interviewed. Stuckle attempted to resign his post, but this was not accepted. His employment was formally terminated for gross misconduct.
Victim B did not make a statement to police.
“The third victim was aged between nine and ten when she was sexually assaulted by Stuckle who touched her private area with his penis,” added the prosecutor.
She was aged around 16 when he first raped her and was slightly older when he raped her again in a place outside British jurisdiction.
“Victim C is now in her 30s and has been diagnosed with various emotional disorders including post traumatic stress disorder. She describes two distinct timelines of events with Stuckle, firstly as a young child and secondly as a teenager.
“On September 14, 1997, Victim C told her neighbour that she had something to say that she could only reveal it to her mother. The neighbour did not press her further, but approached the girl’s mother herself and told her about their conversation.
“The girl’s mother then brought up the subject the next day with her daughter during which the girl revealed what had gone on between her and Stuckle. She explained that he had touched her in her vaginal area under her pyjamas.
“The police were contacted and the girl said she was too distressed to answer their questions but she did tell them that Stuckle had touched her in the ‘rude area’ of her body. She explained that it happened on more than one occasion.
“Stuckle was arrested by police, but because of the lack of evidence, no further action was taken.
“As part of the wider investigation into Stuckle’s past, Victim C was contacted again and she confirmed that he had touched her vaginally with his manhood when she was very little. The victim said that she has since blocked out this period of her life and couldn’t remember anything else.
She described how she was once forced to have oral sex with him, which led to him raping her.
“She also recalls another occasion when again she was forced to perform oral sex on him. She was scared of him.”
The court was told that Stuckle has always been in employment and had served with the Royal Corps of Transport in Aldershot in 1998. He has achieved enhanced status in prison while in custody awaiting sentence.
Stuckle pleaded guilty to eight charges of rape and sexual assaults of children over two decades.
In sentencing Stuckle, Judge Lawrie said: “You are being sentenced in respect of a variety of sexual offences covering the years between 1996 and 2016. These offences affected three victims and all three were unknown to each other.
“You initially pleaded not guilty to all the offences at the magistrates court but eventually you admitted your guilt during the court process.
“You had a clear position of trust towards one victim. It is clear to me you took advantage and regularly abused your position.
“A particular note of concern surrounding your sexual offending is that all the victims were clearly and self-evidently vulnerable, a situation which you would have been aware of at all times and a vulnerability that arose due to their age, their personal circumstances, or their fractured emotional and mental capacity.
“You targeted them because of their vulnerabilities because it made the commission of the offences much easier and less likely they would either complain or be believed if they did.
“The victims graphically describe the deep long term emotional and psychological impact that your offending has on her. It is clear that will not diminish with the passage of time.
“During your pre-sentence interview you accepted have ‘done wrong’ and stated that you had pleaded guilty to all offences and added, ‘I hate myself for what I have put the girls through’.
“Yet moments later you contradicted this by denying having any malicious sexual intent and attempted to minimise your responsibility.
“I therefore query the true extent of your remorse as to your offending.
“The offence is so serious, that only a custodial sentence can be justified. The least possible sentence I can impose having regard to the seriousness of the offences is one of 20 years imprisonment.”
Stuckle was placed on the sex offenders register for life and subject to the terms of a sexual harm prevention order for the rest of his life.