HIV-positive Choppington man jailed for 22 years for raping child

The victim's mother said Martin Richards had stolen her daughter's childhood. Credit: NCJ MEDIA

A man who raped a child despite knowing he was HIV positive has been jailed for 22 years.

Martin Richards, 50, subjected his underage victim to sexual attacks which left them and their family "devastated".

Newcastle Crown Court heard the child had to undergo blood tests and required medication before enduring an anxious wait to ensure they had not been infected with the virus.

Richards, from Choppington in Northumberland, was given the sentence at Newcastle Crown Court on Monday 6 November.

The former prison officer previously pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual assault on a child, causing a child to watch a sexual act and attempting to pervert the course of justice by sending the victim's family letters trying to get the charges dropped.

He had denied rape, sexual assault and causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity but was found guilty by a jury following a trial.

Richards was convicted by a jury of offences of rape, sexual assault and causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity. Credit: NCJ MEDIA

In a victim impact statement, the victim's mother said: "The impact of the crimes he committed has been profound.

"Until we could be sure she didn't have HIV she had to take several tablets. She would get so distressed when taking then she would be sick.

"I've struggled to come to terms with what happened. Her confidence is drained and she's particularly nervous around unknown males.

"We are devastated for her and what she's been through. We can only hope she can start to heal and start to trust again. He has stolen so much of her childhood."

Judge Gavin Doig sentenced Richards, who has 33 previous convictions, to a total of 22 years, of which he must serve two-thirds behind bars. He has also been handed a restraining order and will remain on must the sex offenders register for life.

The judge, referring to Richards' HIV, said: "That didn't stop him committing sexual offences. This was sickening behaviour on behalf of the defendant. It's of great good fortune the infection was not passed to her but he took the risk it could be."

The court heard he continues to deny the more serious charges he was convicted of and denies having a sexual attraction to children.

Fiona Lamb, who was defending Richards, said he was diagnosed with HIV but it was caught early and he was put on medication which ensures the virus cannot be spread.

Miss Lamb said Richards is "devastated" as he will not see his mother again in the community because of her age and the length of his sentence.

She continued: "There is some appreciation for the impact of his behaviour. He knows it should never have happened and he needs to seek assistance while in custody."

Detective Constable Emma Hooker of Northumbria Police’s Safeguarding department said: “This was a horrendous ordeal for the victim and her family, and I am pleased the courts have seen fit to sentence Richards to a lengthy sentence.

“Richards is a dangerous man, he stripped his victim of her childhood innocence and abused her in the most horrific way.

“He is a predator and there’s no place in our communities for someone like him. Instead of admitting all of his vile actions he stood trial, prolonging the proceedings for his victim but eventually the jury saw through the lies.

“I would like to praise the victim for her bravery because if she hadn’t spoken up and told her mother what had happened, Richards may not be behind bars today. I know no sentence will ever take away the trauma he was caused but I hope some closure can be taken and the victim and her family are able to begin moving forward with their lives."

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