Gloucestershire care home rapist Colin Stokes jailed
A care worker who raped three vulnerable women at the home he worked in has been jailed for 14 years.
Colin Stokes, 48, attacked the women - aged 32, 50 and 54 - between January 2012 and April 2013 in supported living accommodation in Gloucestershire.
One victim has a mental age of a child, another is registered blind and the third needs aid to communicate.
Stokes, of Dursley, was sentenced at Gloucester Crown Court, where in January he admitted three rape charges.
Each victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has severe learning disabilities and requires 24-hour care.
At the earlier plea hearing Stokes denied a further charge of rape and one of sexual assault and the court was told those charges would lie on file.
'Cruel and depraved'
Stokes was employed to work the night shift at the home, which also cannot be identified, and help with day-to-day tasks. Due to staff cutbacks he worked alone.
Police branded him a "sexual predator" who deliberately targeted his victims and said he had not shown any remorse for the damage he had inflicted on them.
The mother of Stoke's 32-year-old victim said her "world fell apart" the moment she discovered her daughter had been sexually assaulted by him.
The victim's sister said "that monster has ruined my life", adding she had felt "sick, angry, upset, drained and so guilty for not protecting [my sister] from him".
Judge Jamie Tabor QC jailed Stokes for 14 years and told him he would serve another six years on licence. He also placed him on the Sex Offenders' Register for life.
"These three ladies had the bodies of adults but the minds of children and little children at that," the judge said.
"They were every bit as vulnerable as little children and in some ways they were more vulnerable.
"You had sex with each of them. Such behaviour was cruel and depraved. None of these ladies was capable of giving consent, as you well knew.
"It is difficult to imagine a greater breach of trust."
'Best possible evidence'
It has emerged Stokes was arrested in 2007 on suspicion of "inciting sexual activity with a mentally ill female at a care home".
He was questioned and bailed but that was cancelled following an investigation and referral to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). No further action was taken.
A second investigation began in April last year when one of his colleagues reported that a resident had told them they had been abused by him, the court was told.
Stokes, who had worked in the care industry for 13 years and in his current job since 2007, was immediately arrested on suspicion of rape and sexual assault and suspended.
Interviews were carried out by the force, which said an intermediary had been involved for the first time ever in one of their investigations.
A specialist with experience in learning disabilities helped "communicate better" with the victims "and therefore get the best evidence possible", police said.
Gloucestershire County Council had been responsible for contracting the firm which employed Stokes as a care worker for the home's residents.
The authority has now called for an independent review to study whether the attacks could have been prevented.
'We don't have answers'
Chris Haynes, who oversees learning disability services for the council, said: "We are very concerned about what might have been known in 2007, what actions might have been taken at that point and whether the matter could have been prevented.
"We don't have answers to those questions which is why I have requested the safeguarding board conduct a serious case review to help us answer some of those questions and make sure we can understand what happened in 2007."
Rachael Scott, head of the CPS South West rape and serious sexual offence unit, said that when the 2007 complaint was made Stokes was interviewed and denied the offence.
"This was one person's word against another," she said.
"In the absence of any corroboration the decision was made that there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.
"In 2007 the statutory process of using intermediaries was not available to us. Furthermore the recognised benefits of using an intermediary were in their infancy and their effectiveness was not known.
"The stance the Crown Prosecution Service takes today is fundamentally different to that in 2007. We no longer see the lack of corroboration as a bar to bringing a case to court."