A 25-year-old Cheltenham man who was found guilty in September of twice raping a young woman in Cirencester has been sentenced to a prison term of six years.
In sentencing Matthew Dickens, of Greet Road, Winchcombe, Judge Rupert Lowe told him: “You ignored her when she asked you to stop. As you raped her you strangled her by squeezing her throat very hard. Again, you were acting out your sexual entitlement.
“She has been left with emotional damage and her normal day-to-day activities are now curtailed.”
Gloucester Crown Court heard that Dickens had a past conviction for five offences, including three of stalking, against a young girl whilst he was still a youth in a different part of the country.
He entered a relationship while she was underage and had become controlling and coercive towards her.
Jerry Hayes, defending, said: “Despite everything he has completed a first-class degree in electric and electronic engineering and until being remanded in custody last week, has been employed on a graduates’ entrance scheme.
“This offence occurred some time ago and as this court has heard he has had difficulty in obtaining a drug he needs to keep his body in check. This situation will only get worse in prison and without his medication, this may hinder him whilst in custody.”
During Dickens’ five-day trial prosecutor Giles Nelson told the jury: “He was invited to the woman’s room in Cirencester on Friday, January 17, 2022, and he arrived quite late in the evening at around 10.40pm with a friend.
“They joined the woman in her room. She was already drinking with others in the shared accommodation. The woman, who had become intoxicated, doesn’t have any recollection of getting undressed and when she came to Dickens was still present. She presumed she had invited him in. There had been no discussion between them about having sex.
“She is adamant she told Dickens to stop, but he ignored this. He then put his hands around her throat to such a point that she couldn’t breathe. Dickens continued to have sex with her, without her consent.”
The jury took just two hours to return their guilty verdicts.
The victim told the court in a statement: “This whole situation has had an impact on me in numerous ways.
“This includes the initial pain which I suffered as it lasted for some two months, and my ability to form relationships and being in the company of men. I don’t like being served by men in restaurants or answering the door to delivery drivers.
“My own studies have suffered as I can no longer concentrate on lectures as something always triggers a flashback in me. I am suicidal and am undergoing treatment with a counsellor.
“I now suffer severe mood swings and shout at those closest to me. It has changed the way I dress and no longer dress in the way my friends appear. I also have difficulty wearing anything around my neck, so wearing a formal tie is now out of the question.”
Judge Lowe told Dickens: “You’ve had previous convictions for sexual offending whilst a youth which ended with you sending thousands of messages to her when she broke off the relationship.
“That period should have been an important learning experience for you in that the law protects girls and women from predatory and controlling sexual behaviour by boys and men.
“I regret to say you’ve not taken on board that lesson when you met this woman from Cirencester on social media. You need to act within the law when it comes to sexual relationships. You didn’t take notice what your victim told you. It is clear she did not consent to what you were doing and didn’t want it to go any further and told you to stop.
“Frankly you did not care whether or not she agreed. She was very concerned you were not using a condom and repeatedly told you to stop.
“You also refused to speak to the pre-sentence report author without an intermediary, which I feel you do not need as you appeared in court for the trial without one. I accept you have special needs, and that you are on the autism spectrum, but this has not affected you academically.”
When the judge sentenced Dickens to six years in prison, he started crying and wiping away his tears.
The judge imposed indefinite sex offender registration and a 10-year restraining order. Dickens must not contact his victim by any means during the period of the order.
Following the guilty verdicts Gloucestershire Police paid tribute to the bravery of the victim. Detective Constable Rob Brown said: “I want to commend the woman’s bravery and determination to carry on supporting the case when it would have been understandable if she had decided not to put herself through it.
“I hope this sentence provides some level of validation for her courage. In the process a dangerous individual has now been convicted at court and, potentially, prevented from wrecking other people’s lives.
“My message to anyone else who is a rape victim who is worried about coming forward is that you will be believed, and that the criminal justice system is beginning to change. We are transforming the way that the Crown Prosecution Service and the police handle rape and sexual assault cases and are working together to ensure that victims are supported throughout the prosecution process.”