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Romance scam rapist who left ‘trail of devastation’ is jailed for 12 years

Christopher Harkins, 37, loaned money from women he targeted on dating websites.

A “manipulative and violent” rapist who defrauded women out of more than £210,000 through romance scams has been jailed for 12 years.

Christopher Harkins, 37, targeted single women on dating websites and worked to gain their trust, portraying himself himself as a successful businessman.

He then claimed to be experiencing issues with his bank account being frozen and asked some of his victims to lend him money for a short period of time, prosecutors said.

Several women borrowed significant sums in order to help Harkins, who left what the judge described as “a trail of emotional devastation and financial distress” in his wake.

He pleaded guilty to the fraud charges at the High Court in Glasgow on January 16.

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 before 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 criminal offences directed towards 10 different victims over a period of almost six years, defrauding nine of those victims of more than £214,000.

In a sentencing statement, later published online, he said: “The degree of harm caused by you is extremely high. Many of your victims were deprived of all or some of their personal savings leaving some in financial difficulty.

“These frauds are what are commonly described as romance scams. The court recognises that this is a particular type of fraud which preys upon a person’s compassion and emotions, where your contrived pleas and explanations as to your need for money were, in fact, calculated ploys designed to take advantage of the decent nature of those women.

“It is self-evident that this particular type of fraud is likely to have a devastating psychological effect on the victims quite apart from any financial loss to them.

“I have taken time to read the victim impact statements provided by a number of the victims of these crimes. They describe in detailed terms the feelings of shame, humiliation, stress and exhaustion suffered as a consequence of your course of criminal conduct.”

Harkins, from Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute, also persuaded a number of the women to transfer him money for holidays, sending them screenshots of alleged destinations.

He persuaded them to pay for half the cost but never booked the trips away and failed to return the majority of the funds given to him.

His offending took place between 2013 and 2019 in the Airdrie, Cumbernauld, Dumbarton, East Kilbride, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Paisley and Stirling areas, the Crown Office said.

The 37-year-old’s name has been added to the sex offenders register indefinitely.

Non-harassment orders, preventing Harkins from contacting or attempting to contact 10 victims, have also been granted for an indefinite period.

Scotland’s Procurator Fiscal for High Court Sexual Offences, Katrina Parkes, said: “Christopher Harkins clearly poses an extreme danger to women through his calculating, manipulative and violent behaviour.

“His many victims have shown immense bravery in coming forward and reporting him to the authorities.

“This conviction will hopefully bring some comfort to the women he targeted while protecting others from his deplorable schemes and depraved actions.

“This was a complex case and I give thanks to the prosecution team for their efforts in securing this conviction.”

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