Rapist who left a “trail of devastation” sentenced to 12 years in prison

Rapist who left a “trail of devastation” sentenced to 12 years in prison

A “manipulative and violent” rapist who defrauded women of more than £210,000 through romance scams has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Christopher Harkins, 37, targeted single women on dating websites and tried to gain their trust by posing as a successful businessman.

He then claimed to have problems with his bank account being blocked and asked some of his victims to lend him money for a short period of time, prosecutors said.

Several women borrowed significant sums to help Harkins. The perpetrator left a “trail of emotional devastation and financial hardship,” as the judge described it.

On 16 January, he pleaded guilty to fraud charges at the High Court in Glasgow.

Following a trial at the High Court in Paisley in May, Harkins was found guilty of raping a woman and was also convicted of filming two women in intimate situations without their consent and then sending them the graphic content.

Judge Alistair Watson sentenced Christopher Harkins to 12 years in prison at the High Court in Kilmarnock on Wednesday.

He said Harkins committed 19 separate crimes targeting ten different victims over a period of almost six years and defrauded nine of those victims of more than £214,000.

In a statement later published online, he said: “The damage you have caused is extremely high. Many of your victims have been robbed of all or part of their personal savings, leaving some of them in financial difficulties.”

“These scams are commonly referred to as romance scams. The court recognises that this is a special type of scam which preys on a person’s sympathy and feelings, whereas your fictitious requests and explanations regarding your need for money were in fact calculated tricks designed to exploit the decency of these women.

“It is clear that this particular type of fraud can have devastating psychological effects on victims, not to mention the financial losses.

“I have taken the time to read the victim impact statements of several victims of these crimes. They describe in detail the feelings of shame, humiliation, stress and exhaustion you suffered as a result of your criminal conduct.”

Harkins, from Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute, also persuaded some of the women to send him money for the holiday by sending them screenshots of the alleged travel destinations.

He persuaded them to cover half the costs, but never booked the trips and did not return most of the funds given to him.

His crimes occurred between 2013 and 2019 in the areas of Airdrie, Cumbernauld, Dumbarton, East Kilbride, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Paisley and Stirling, the Crown Office said.

The 37-year-old’s name is on the sex offenders’ register for an indefinite period of time.

In addition, restraining orders were issued indefinitely preventing Harkins from contacting or attempting to contact ten victims.

Katrina Parkes, Crown Prosecutor for Sex Offences in Scotland, said: “Christopher Harkins clearly poses an extreme danger to women due to his calculating, manipulative and violent behaviour.

“His many victims have shown tremendous courage by coming forward and reporting him to the authorities.

“This conviction will hopefully provide some comfort to the women he targeted and protect others from his reprehensible schemes and depraved actions.

“This was a complex case and I thank the prosecution for their efforts in obtaining this conviction.”

Lyndsay Laird, Detective Chief Inspector at Police Scotland, said: “Christopher Harkins is a violent and despicable individual who targets women looking for love and companionship.”

“His only motive was money. Harkins met the woman on a dating app and after developing a relationship with her, he resorted to manipulation, threats, coercive control and violence to obtain thousands of pounds to fund his very lavish lifestyle.

“The fact that he was convicted is a great credit to the women who turned to the police.”