Rapist behind bars

A 57-year-old former worship leader from Galashiels has been sent to prison today after he was convicted of nine offences, including rape, sexual assault and indecent conduct towards four victims.

By Court reporter
Monday, 13th June 2022, 2:40 pm
Updated Monday, 13th June 2022, 3:58 pm
Rapist Stephen Chalmers was given an Order for Lifelong Restriction (OLR).
Rapist Stephen Chalmers was given an Order for Lifelong Restriction (OLR).

Stephen Charters, who among his crimes, raped a terrified teenage churchgoer in hotels in Edinburgh, was given an Order for Lifelong Restriction (OLR), and must serve at least five years behind bars.

Judge, Lady Carmichael, told Charters: “The offending on this indictment is serious. It covers a period of many years and includes convictions for rape. It has caused serious and enduring harm."

"You present a high risk of further sexual offending. You have a limited capacity for change."

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After telling him he had to serve at least five years in jail, she added: “It is important to understand that does not mean you will be released at the end of that period.”

Charters, who has already served a five-year sentence imposed on him in 2016 for sex crimes against children, will only ever be released if parole authorities decide his imprisonment is no longer necessary for the protection of the public.

Defence counsel Mark Stewart QC said that Charters continued to maintain his innocence of the offences he was found guilty of at the trial last year. A background report and two further expert reports were obtained on the sex offender following the trial.

Mr Stewart said: "The reports each conclude that he presents a high risk of further offending and that there is a high risk that offending would involve sexual violence."

But the defence counsel argued that he could be dealt with by the imposition of a determinate sentence with a further period of supervision in the community as an alternative to an OLR.

During Charters’ earlier trial he had claimed that sex with the teenager he took to hotels was consensual, but the victim said it made her feel "horrible inside". She said that during the ordeal she was subjected to by him she was "just frozen".

Charters, formerly of Galashiels, told the court he held "Christian beliefs" and was involved with the church in Edinburgh as a young adult. The girl he raped in hotels had attended a church in Leven, in Fife, where he acted as a worship leader.

The teenager had an argument with a boyfriend in 2015 and was facing difficulties with accommodation. She was in contact with Charters through social media and he went to pick her up.

Prosecutor Steven Borthwick said: "It was a cry for help from her to you." Charters replied: "Yes, I suppose you could put it that way." He said: "I went over to help her out because she had no accommodation and she was scared."

He claimed that he hoped to contact her father and take her home. But instead he booked into a hotel and subjected her to sex acts before raping her.

The victim told the court: "It is hard to describe it when a guy forces himself on you. It was like he couldn't get enough of me."

She said: "I was just frozen. I couldn't move. I got pushed onto the bed. I was hoping he was going to leave me alone."

Charters was told he would be placed on the sex offenders' register for an indefinite period following his sentencing today.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Following the sentencing, Police Detective Inspector Jonny Wright said: “I would like to commend the victims for coming forward. Despite the passage of time, they were able to give us information which allowed detectives to carry out this investigation. Had it not been for their bravery in coming forward and giving evidence in court, Charters could have gone unpunished.

“Charters denied these crimes, but extensive work carried out by officers and partners, including the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), means that he has now been brought to justice.

“This case is an example of no matter when the incident happened, Police Scotland will always thoroughly investigate and we are here to listen and support victims and have specially trained officers to carry out enquiries.

“We continue to be committed to bringing all perpetrators of sexual abuse to justice and time is no barrier for our enquiries. I would urge anyone who wishes to report sexual crime, regardless of when it happened, to contact us so we can conduct a thorough and professional investigation.”