Anger as social workers suggest letting rapist avoid jail sentence

Paul Cooke. Picture: Police Scotland
Paul Cooke. Picture: Police Scotland
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Campaigners have hit out at social workers who suggested handing a community payback order to a man for raping a teenager.

A judge yesterday jailed Paul Cooke, 70, for six years after he repeatedly raped the girl when she was aged 16 or 17 in Dalkeith and sexually assaulted two other teenagers.

Lord Boyd of Duncansby labelled a report from social workers “remarkable” and stressed a non-custodial sentence for the rape of a teenager was “not a serious option”.

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said: “Anyone who has raped a teenager should be given a serious custodial sentence. Victims must know their attackers will be punished severely.

“It is astonishing that any trained social worker would think a non-custodial sentence would be sufficient in this case.

“Thankfully this advice was not followed, but no-one should ever think that anyone convicted of such depraved acts should be allowed to walk the streets with impunity.”

Cooke, formerly from Dalkeith, had earlier denied a string of charges, but was found guilty of sexually assaulting one girl and raping her and sexually assaulting two others.

In 2016 he touched one victim’s leg when out in a car in Midlothian. He also grabbed hold of a second girl when she was aged 13 and 14 and tried to kiss her in a car on various occasions between June that year and March last year.

The third victim was also sexually assaulted in a car and in a lorry at different places in Scotland and at house in Loanhead, Midlothian, when Cooke touched her leg, grabbed hold of her body and kissed her.

But on various occasions between August 2016 and March last year he also subjected her to rape after grabbing hold of her, pulling her into a bedroom and pushing her onto a bed and assaulting the struggling girl at a house in Dalkeith.

Defence counsel Shelagh McCall said Cooke was a first offender. She said: “He appears to have had a long and constructive life prior to 2016. What has brought about this change, we do not know.”

Lord Boyd told Cooke he took into account his age in sentencing him, but added: “She was young enough to be your granddaughter. It appeared to me you became obsessed by her.” Cooke was placed on the sex offenders’ register indefinitely.

Sandy Brindley from Rape Crisis Scotland said: “It is very important that penalties awarded for crimes as serious as rape reflect the gravity of these offences.

“It is difficult to see in what circumstances a community payback order could ever be an appropriate sentence for rape.”