Police have praised the bravery, courage and dignity of a 10-year-old girl who was raped in Exmouth last year as she walked home.
The schoolgirl and her family today heard how the ‘dangerous’ teenage rapist had been jailed for seven years and two months at Bristol Crown Court.
Police praised the family’s courage and strength in the days and months after the attack and thanked Exmouth’s community for its rallying support.
Detectives hope today’s sentencing will allow the schoolgirl and her family to move on with their lives.
Police are asking the community to give the family privacy and issued a reminder that the schoolgirl has legal anonymity for life and must not be named by anyone.
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector Steve Davies, from the Major Crime Investigation Team, said: “The victim and her family have demonstrated remarkable courage and strength through what has been a complex investigation.
“I would like to thank them, our colleagues in the Crown Prosecution Service, and my investigation team for their tenacity.
“We have all fought extremely hard to see justice done today.
“Understandably, this case has had an impact on everyone involved, including my investigation team, most of whom are parents themselves.
“We hope the sentence today provides the opportunity for the victim and her family, who have remained so composed and dignified throughout the legal process, to start to look forward.”
Mark Haddow, senior prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: “This was a truly horrific crime against a young victim who has shown tremendous bravery as the case was brought first to trial and then retrial.
“The nature of the offence, and its impact on the victim, her family and the community, motivated everyone involved.
“The police and their Major Crime Investigation Team worked extremely hard with the CPS to build the case, and their work went above and beyond what might have been expected of them.
“I hope that the outcome today will allow the family to feel that justice has been done.”
Superintendent Matt Lawler, local policing commander for Exeter, East and Mid Devon, said: “The victim at the centre of all our thoughts has shown truly remarkable courage and resilience.
“She has a hugely supportive family around her, who in turn are supported by friends and professionals. That support will continue long into the future.
“Whilst we really appreciate the messages of support that have been received, we now ask that the whole family are permitted their privacy.
“The girl has legal anonymity for life and must not be named by anyone.
“We hope that everyone will allow the family the time and space they need to try to move forward with their lives.”
The 17-year-old rapist, who cannot be named for legal reasons, attacked the 10-year-old, strangled her until she fell unconscious and raped her.
He grabbed her from behind, pushed her down a bank into a stream, as she walked along Marley Road, Exmouth.
After major response to a police appeal, the offender, then aged 16, was located and arrested the day after the attack and held on remand.
At a trial earlier this year, the teenager was found not guilty of attempted murder and pleaded guilty to strangulation or choking with intent to commit a sexual assault.
When the jury was unable to reach a verdict on a charge of rape, a retrial took place in July at Bristol Crown Court where he admitted raping the girl.
Today, November 7, Mrs Justice May sentenced the boy to seven years and two months in prison and also imposed an extended licence for an additional eight years.
The Judge also made the decision to maintain the offender’s legal right to anonymity. He cannot be identified until he turns 18.
Supt Lawler thanked all who had worked ‘tirelessly’ to jail the rapist.
He praised Exmouth’s community for its concern after the town rallied to help in the hours after the ‘genuinely shocking incident’.
And he praised the work of the police and Crown Prosecution Service in bringing the case to court.
He said the girl’s family had asked him to pass on their thanks to the entire investigation team, and to their Family Liaison Officer for her care and support.
Supt Lawler said: “This understandably attracted significant public concern, and it is worth reflecting upon how the community of Exmouth came together in response to what was a genuinely shocking incident.
“During the investigation, extra neighbourhood officers and PCSOs were deployed into Exmouth to reassure the community, particularly around schools, and to provide support to parents and young people.
“Both the Major Crime Investigation Team and Crown Prosecution Service have worked tirelessly to bring this truly awful crime to a closure in court today.”
Supt Lawler said media appeals made directly after the rape resulted in a key witness coming forward and an arrest being made the day after the attack.