Former worship leader raped teen at hotels after she asked for help

Stephen Chalmers, 57, was previously convicted for raping and sexually assaulting four victims.

Worship leader Stephen Charters, 57, raped teenage girl at hotels in Edinburgh in 2015 SNS GroupPolice Scotland

A former worship leader who raped a teenage churchgoer during a catalogue of sex crimes against women and girls has been handed a life sentence.

Stephen Charters attacked the teenager at hotels in Edinburgh after she made a cry for help to him after he earlier preyed on other victims.

A judge told the 57-year-old: “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.”

Lady Carmichael said at the High Court in Edinburgh: “You present a high risk of further sexual offending. You have a limited capacity for change.”

She imposed an Order for Lifelong Restriction (OLR) on the rapist and ruled that he must serve a minimum term of five years.

The judge said: “It is important to understand that does not mean you will be released at the end of that period.”

Charters will only ever be released if parole authorities decide his imprisonment is no longer necessary for the protection of the public.

He was convicted last year of nine offences, including rape, sexual assault and indecent conduct towards four victims committed between November 1984 and October 2015. 

He has already served a five-year jail term imposed on him in 2016 for sex crimes against children.

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, in the Borders, 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, 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.

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