Distinguished South Tyneside soldier jailed for historic rape of young child

Newcastle Crown Court.

Newcastle Crown Court.

A distinguished former soldier has been jailed for 15 years after being exposed as a vile child rapist.

Christopher Lawson was a "highly regarded" member of his community who completed tours of Northern Ireland and Germany during his 20-year army career and was employed as a blood transfusion service worker after his discharge.

But Newcastle Crown Court heard the 63-year-old, who was considered a "good friend to many", hid a sickening secret that was exposed when his victim found the courage to break decades of tortured silence.

Lawson, of Primrose Terrace, Jarrow, raped a girl when she was at primary school and committed other shocking sexual offences against her.

His victim, who is now an adult, had to relive her ordeal during a trial, where Lawson was convicted by a jury of two offences of rape and three of indecent assault, which he continues to deny.

At his sentencing hearing the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, bravely faced her attacker in court as she read a personal statement from the witness box.

,She said: "I have lived with the shame, mortification and degradation of what he has done to me.

"It has effected every single part of my life in every way it possibly could.

"I have lived in constant fear, bewilderment, shame and horror at what he has put me through and still do to this day.

"Even though I know he cannot harm me, or anyone around me, there is still a feeling of fear that has been left."

The woman told the court she never thought her "sordid, shameful secret" would ever come out or that her attacker would finally face justice.

She added: "I don't think Christopher Lawson will feel or show any remorse, he never has."

Judge Edward Bindloss sentenced Lawson to a 15-year prison term with one year extended licence as well as lifelong sex offender registration and sexual harm prevention order.

The judge said Lawson has been assessed as posing a "high risk of serious harm to children".

Judge Bindloss told him: "Her struggling to understand why this happened to her has had a devastating effect upon her childhood and life in general.

"She told me, and I accept, that she finds it difficult to trust others."

The judge said Lawson had a "good army record" and continued to work hard after discharge.

He added: "You contributed to society and your community. You were clearly a good friend to many and highly regarded by many."

The court heard Lawson continues to deny the offences.

Gavin Doig, defending, said: "He is spoken of extremely highly by many of those who have known him."

Mr Doig said Lawson's crimes will now greatly outweigh his reputation for doing good in society and added: "There has been no other complaints by anybody whatsoever."