A serial sexual predator was jailed today for a campaign of abuse he began as a child and continued into adulthood, targeting girls as young as four.
Stephen Charters carried out a string of sex crimes against victims aged four to eight over two decades.
The former bus driver had denied the offences at an earlier trial, but he was found guilty of five charges of indecent behaviour and two of rape.
Locking him up for five years, a judge told Charters: “These are very serious charges of which you have been convicted, and they were committed over a very long period.”
Lady Clark of Calton said it was plain that his victims had been very seriously affected by their abuse for many years.
She said she accepted that most of the early offending was committed while Charters was a child himself and that the first rape, of an 11-year-old, occurred when he was aged 13 or 14.
The further rape he carried out on a girl aged between six and eight took place when he was “a young adult”, however, she noted.
Lady Clark told him: “I take into account that you are a first offender, that you led a useful and productive life and that there has been no offending for many years.”
Charters, formerly of Wood Street, Galashiels, was convicted of committing sex crimes between 1977 and 1997 in the Borders, at Gorebridge in Midlothian and East Kilbride in South Lanarkshire.
The 51-year-old was convicted of sexual offending from the age of 12, the youngest age for prosecution in Scotland.
He began by molesting a younger girl at a house near Melrose, exposing himself and carrying out sex acts on himself and the child from when she was nine. He later raped her when she was 11.
Charters later abused a second girl at a house in Gorebridge and at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh, before raping her.
On top of that, he made inappropriate sexual remarks to a third girl in East Kilbride and during a car journey.
Lady Clark said: “He is in complete denial about all of this. He does not seem to have any understanding or recognition of his behaviour on the victims.”
Defence counsel Shelagh McCall told the High Court in Edinburgh that Charters continued to deny any involvement in sex offending.
She said there had been a 20-year gap since the last of the offences, and during that time he had worked for a bus firm and driven children to school. Other people had been interviewed, but no further allegations were made against him, she said.
Charters is prepared to co-operate with offending-related programmes on offer in prison, she added.