May 2023

Sexual opportunist took advantage of a teens drunken condition to rape her in her own home

A sexual opportunist took advantage of a teenage woman’s drunken condition to rape her in her own home, a court heard.

Robert James Barnett, a “virtual stranger” to everyone at a house party at his victim’s home, had been drinking vodka in the kitchen until the other guests had either left or fallen asleep, before he struck.

He then dragged the woman up the stairs, stripped her naked in her bedroom and was in the act of raping her when she came around.

Durham Crown Court heard that although she protested and urged him to stop, he took hold of her firmly around her throat, squeezed her neck, then grabbed her breasts and continued with the rape.

When he did stop, the victim quickly dressed into her pyjamas, ran from the house and sought sanctuary at a relative’s home nearby.

Paul Cleasby, prosecuting, said the defendant followed her and tried to get into the house, with the victim so scared he may gain entry that she hid in a child’s bedroom.

Police were called and were soon in attendance, arresting Barnett, who struggled as he was being detained.

Mr Cleasby said Barnett claimed he had only taken the woman up to her bed to assist due to her condition but he made no comment when asked further questions.

The, now, 58-year-old defendant denied charges of rape and sexual assault, maintaining his “Good Samaritan” defence during his trial earlier this month.

But he was found guilty on both counts and was remanded in custody, pending his sentencing hearing on Friday (May 19).

The court was read parts of the impact statement of the victim who said she moved home in the wake of the attack as she could no longer bear to live there.

She also left her job in that area and moved to a different location.

The victim stated that she found the court process difficult as she inadvertently came face-to-face with the defendant during the trial.

Mr Cleasby said that should not have happened, but it had clearly upset the victim.

He told the court there must have been some planning by the defendant, as he remained at the victim’s home for five hours until others had either left or gone to sleep, before taking her upstairs.

Judge James Adkin told Barnett he attended the woman’s house “uninvited”, a man in his mid-50s, at the time, among a gathering of mostly teenagers.

He said the defendant’s claim during his trial that he merely fell on the woman was clearly not believed by the jury.

“You were a trespasser in her home, never invited to the party, and you choked her while you raped her.

“Despite her obvious upset, you continued to rape her.

“In my view there was significant planning.

“My judgement is that when the party died down, you thought you would take your chance and dragged her upstairs and raped her.”

Judge Adkin imposed a 12-year prison sentence, of which the defendant must serve two-thirds before being released on licence.

He made the defendant, of Gore Hill Estate, Thornley, County Durham, subject of registration as a sex offender for life.

Judge Adkin also put in place a lifetime restraining order, prohibiting Barnett from contacting or approaching the rape victim.