Jason Lawrence – match.com rapist jailed for life

Jason Lawrence – match.com rapist jailed for life

12
SHARE
Photo from the BBC

Introduction

Like many people nowadays Jason Lawrence, a 50 year from Hampshire, turned to internet dating – match.com (other dating websites are available). Unlike most, Mr Lawrence’s aim was not to find a life partner – he was a sexual predator and targeted ‘lonely and vulnerable’ women, many who were divorced or widowed.

He was accused of raping 5 different women, and assaulting two others, over a three and a half year period from June 2011. He was convicted of these offences, and on 3rd March 2016 was sentence to life imprisonment.

The women that he had targeted were spread out over England. It seems that in all cases, he arranged to meet the women and raped them on the first or second time that they met.

Despite the fact that Mr Lawrence married somebody that he met on match.com during this period, this did not stop his attacks – two of the rapes were committed within a few months of the wedding.

Mr Lawrence accepted having sex with all the victims, but denied rape, saying that it was consensual. A defence that the jury rejected.

 

Sentence

The Life Sentence

Unusually (for someone convicted of an offences other than murder), Mr Lawrence received a life sentence (see here for our fact sheet on discretionary life sentences and here for our look at life sentences post-LASPO).

The Judge said “Given the chance you will rape again. I do not know when it may be safe to release you into the community.” A life sentence can be imposed for rape if “the defendant poses a significant risk of serious harm to the public, and that the seriousness of the offence justifies such a sentence“.

On the face of it, this was not a case that called out for a life sentence. Although it was serious, there does not appear to be a background that would compel the feeling that is dangerous (at least in the legal sense).

The tariff – the length of time that must be served before Mr Lawrence can be released, was set at 12½ years. This is equivalent to a determinate sentence of 25 years.

Further, the consequence of a conviction is that he is on the Sexual Offenders Register and, more significantly, could be subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order. This would allow the police to, for example, monitor his internet use and ban him from internet dating.

In addition, if the sentence of 25 years was appropriate (see below) then he will be on licence until the end of that period. He is now aged 50, which means he will be supervised until he is 75. It is likely that by that time, when couple with a RSHO, he will not really present such a risk.

If the Judge was concerned, he could have imposed an Extended Sentence, which would provide for a longer period of time on licence.

A life sentence should not be imposed purely as a punitive measure – it is for the protection of the public. It is likely that there will be an appeal against that part of the sentence (subject to the usual caveat about there being factors that we are not aware of).

 

The Tariff

If we look at the Sentencing Guidelines (see page 10), we see that this is a case that is probably outside the range as it could be considered a ‘campaign of rape’, which may attract a sentence of up to 20 years, and sometimes more.

On the face of it, the individual rapes would probably be Category 3A offences (Culpability A because of the planning) at most. They would probably attract sentences of about 5-6 years (it is difficult as there are not many exact details of the offences).

You don’t just add the different sentences together though; account must be taken of totality. Here, the sentence is significantly above what we would have expected (more in the range of 15-18 years, or at the most up to about 20/21 – even if it is properly categorised as a ‘campaign’ you should not use the aggravating features that make it a campaign, to increase its seriousness within that bracket).

For that reason, we would expect an appeal against the sentence imposed. It may be of course that there are extra details that we are unaware of.

SHARE
Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.

12 COMMENTS

  1. I am puzzled by this case, and the accusations made against match.com for their inaction. After the first rape, surely the women said to the police: “I was raped by a man I met on match.com”. It doesn’t take much effort to track the individual from that infromation, so why was he not caught earlier?

    • It may be that the first victim didn’t initially report the rape. Even if she did, the first case would come down to her word against his. Naturally they would be able to track him via Match.com but if he denied the accusation there may not have been enough evidence to charge him. This case sounds similar (in some ways) to the John Warboys (I think his name was) case a few years ago, when a taxi driver raped numerous women and was only convicted after several of them had come forward.

  2. “Although it was serious, there does not appear to be a background that would compel the feeling that is dangerous (at least in the legal sense).”
    Out of curiosity, what sort of background would compel a feeling of dangerousness? Surely a serial predatory rapist would qualify as someone with a high risk of reoffending?

    • In addition, according to the press, in one year alone he attempted to make contact with 3000 women via Match.com. You’re right that he was shaping up to be another Worboys fortunately he was caught much sooner.

    • Andrew, do you remember the case of the bus driver who refused to allow a young woman on a night bus because she was 20p short of her bus fare home, who was then forced to walk, and was raped. The bus driver didn’t rape her however I would suggest he should feel some degree of shame that the consequences of his actions led to her being raped. Similarly, I would suggest that Match.com cannot walk away from this feeling proud of their inaction.

      • What are they supposed to do? I suppose if they are told that Victim A days she has been raped by a man whom she says she met through their site – and if they are given enough information to identify his account – they can close it (and he will try another site). Short of that are they different from the management of a pub or restaurant where people arrange to meet?

        I notice that twelve and a half is a minimum – the Parole Board should not let this abomination out until the fires have died down. I am older now than he will be when he can first apply and if I were a rapist (which I am not) I would still be a menace.

        • I hear what you’re saying but what I’m asking is: was it okay that they did nothing? Now they’re doing something but only once the horse has bolted.

  3. It all depends on what they knew and when they knew it, doesn’t it?

    Ultimately this site is for people to meet. Every matchmaker there has ever been in human history could end up in the same boat – no matter how careful they are. I don’t know what they are doing now – after as you say the horse has bolted but perhaps before the next one has the same idea.

    If a man rapes the first woman whom he meets through any of these sites they cannot possibly be responsible. They have no way of knowing what lur4ks behind the online mask.

    • Agreed, it depends on what they knew and how many people reported him (and whether they actually reported him to match.com as well as / instead of the police). Of course they can’t be held responsible for the first rape and it’d be questionable to ban him from the site based on a single allegation. But IF several women complained to match.com about him, then I’d agree with LES – they should have done something to protect their other customers. After all, if a particular individual is involved in multiple incidents of, say, violence or harassment at a pub, landlords can and do bar them from returning. I don’t know if match.com were actually informed though. Obviously it’s not their fault if nobody told them.

  4. I assume that they would act on complaints (even if to investigate) but there doesn’t seem much more that could be done – we can’t have a private company having all the personal data on us that the police would have.

    I would assume that they also offer safety advice to users as well (and if they don’t, then they should).

  5. I cannot avoid the thought that I would not be sorry if his fellow-prisoners decided the sentence was too long and decided to make it much shorter. There is more than one way to leave prison and some leave feet first.

LEAVE A REPLY