THE judge who passed sentence on Helensburgh rapist and 'romance scammer' Christopher Harkins has banned him from having any contact with any of his victims for life.

Harkins was handed a 12-year sentence at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court on Wednesday, July 10 for crimes of rape, sexual and physical abuse and fraud, committed between 2013 and 2019.

In addition to the lifetime non-harassment order, 37-year-old Harkins was put on the sex offenders register for life.

Passing sentence, Judge Alistair Watson made the following statement in court. 

"Christopher Harkins, you have committed 19 separate criminal offences directed towards 10 different victims over a period of almost six years, in which you defrauded nine of those victims of sums of money exceeding £214,000, almost none of which has ever been repaid to any of them.

"Further, in the course of what one particular victim believed to be a genuine relationship, you took advantage of the trust she had placed in you by the commission of rape.

"This occurred in circumstances where she was sleeping at the time, placed herself in a vulnerable situation, but did so believing that she was safe in your company. You took advantage of her trust in the most appalling manner by forcibly anally raping her.

"You also committed other, perhaps more minor, sexual offences on four occasions towards two of those victims. In addition, you are to be sentenced for common-law assaults and abusive behaviour towards three of your victims.

"In relation to the crimes of fraud, each committed against women who were persuaded to lend you money, you engaged a remarkably similar modus operandi.

"You targeted single females on dating websites, and worked to gain their trust, portraying yourself as a successful businessman before then inventing stories as to why you needed short-term loans of cash.

Christopher Harkins was jailed for 12 years.Christopher Harkins was jailed for 12 years. (Image: Police Scotland)

"Some of these women had to borrow money in order, they believed, to help you out in a crisis. Others lent you their personal savings. Very little of that money ever appears to have been recovered.

"Once you had achieved your aim with each victim you moved on to the next, and you repeated the process, leaving a trail of emotional devastation and financial distress in your wake.

"Your conduct towards your victims displays very high culpability. You abused the trust placed in you by each one of your victims. The number, nature and manner of commission of your offending is indicative of a significant degree of planning.

"It was conducted over a sustained period of time and towards a significant number of separate victims. From the evidence given at trial it was clear that on certain occasions you identified victims due to their perceived vulnerability.

"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 please 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.

"I also have regard to the terms of the criminal justice social work report which has been prepared. The writer of that report has used a number of risk assessment tools and identifies you as an individual who has engaged in calculated conduct designed to exert power and control over women to obtain compliance and to satisfy your financial and other needs. The writer identifies you as being an individual who takes no responsibility and who demonstrates a lack of accountability for your conduct.

"While I do take into account the fact that you pled guilty to the financial crimes in advance of trial, it is difficult to identify anything, either in the report or from your own evidence in the trial itself, which is consistent with genuine contrition or remorse.

Kilmarnock Sheriff Court, where Judge Alistair Watson jailed Christopher Harkins for 12 years.Kilmarnock Sheriff Court, where Judge Alistair Watson jailed Christopher Harkins for 12 years. (Image: Google Street View)

"Having regard to the Scottish Sentencing Council’s guidance on sentencing, I intend to impose on you a single ‘in cumulo’ sentence in relation to all charges which applies weight to the need for protection of the public, as well as recognising the need for punishment, for rehabilitation and for deterrence. That is a sentence of 12 years’ imprisonment.

"I will backdate the start of that sentence to the date on which you were remanded in custody, which I understand to be January 10, 2024.

"It should be understood that I consider 12 years’ imprisonment to be the minimum appropriate period which gives due weight to appropriate public concern in relation to the type of offending, takes account of the need for punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation, but which does not seek to replicate these same purposes in respect of each of the separate groups of sentences involved.

"It may be noted that had I sentenced each of the different groups of offences separately and individually, I would have considered an appropriate headline sentence for the frauds (charges 5, 7, 13, 14, 18, 26, 32, 37, 40, 42 and 43) to be a sentence of eight years’ imprisonment.

"I would have considered the appropriate headline sentence for the rape conviction (charge 24) to be one of six years’ imprisonment. The appropriate sentence for the assaults and physical abuse (charges 1, 9 and 27) would have been one of one and a half years’ imprisonment, and similarly, the other, more minor, sexual offences (charges 19, 21, 29 and 30) would also have merited a sentence of one and a half years’ imprisonment.

"Had these groups of sentences run consecutively, as they might well have done having regard to their separable nature and times of commission, this would have led to a sentence of 17 years in total. In my view that would have been excessive and would have involved inappropriate repetition of the same sentencing purposes.

"Accordingly, dealing with matters cumulatively, I consider that a sentence of 14 years would have been sufficient as a headline sentence to meet the sentencing aims to which I have referred. It is further reduced by two years to recognise the utilitarian value of the pleas of guilty in relation to the financial offences.

"Those pleas, tendered in advance at a continued preliminary hearing, did not obviate the requirement for a trial in this case, but they did reduce its length, and they did result in a number of the complainers being spared from the need to give evidence in the course of the trial.

"As a consequence of the sentence imposed, I have to advise you that, in relation to charges 8, 9, 10, 13, 16 and 17, you will remain subject to registration in terms of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 indefinitely.

"Finally I intend to grand non-harassment orders in respect of each of the victims of your conduct, providing that you will not communicate or attempt to communicate with any of them, directly or indirectly, by any means whatsoever, and also that you will not approach within 100 metres of any of them at any time or place.

"Each of these orders will last indefinitely and you should understand that if you were to breach any of these orders at any point in the future, such a breach may result in you being further prosecuted and imprisoned."