Rapist handed 20-year prison sentence
A man has been jailed for 20 years after pleading guilty to raping a teenager and a young woman.
Leon Austin, 31, raped the woman multiple times in South Gloucestershire last year and was arrested the next day. While on remand Austin was also charged for raping a second person in 2018 in Gloucestershire.
The court was told how in both cases Austin targeted his victims by plying them with alcohol or drugs.
In August 2022, Austin and a woman, who was in her 20s, went to a number of pubs before going back to the home belonging to a friend of his where they stayed up drinking.
The following morning Austin offered to take the woman back home, but during that journey made sexual advances to her, which she declined.
He refused to take no for an answer and despite her attempts to flee the vehicle, he sexually assaulted her. He eventually stopped at a remote barn in Charfield where he attacked and raped her.
After the attack, the woman ran away and Austin drove from the scene. She managed to flag down a passing motorist and called the police to report what had happened.
Austin was charged within a couple of days and has been remanded in custody ever since.
‘My relationship and outlook on men in general has completely changed’
The woman – who is legally entitled to remain anonymous as is anyone who reports being a victim of a sexual offence – explained to the court how what happened last August continues to affect her.
In her victim personal statement, she said: “I have good days and bad days. On bad days, I cannot do anything, I am crippled by an overwhelming fear to do anything, leave my room, have a shower or eat. I still feel I have more bad days than good.
“There have been times that I have to go to my mum because I am concerned what I might do to myself.”
She also has struggled to sleep or return to work because of the trauma caused by Austin. It has led to her losing weight, making a conscious decision to change her appearance and not celebrating her birthday.
She said: “Since Leon raped me, I am really self-conscious; more so than I was before. The clothes I wear have changed… I am really conscious of what people think of me and worried that men will see me sexually.”
She continued: “My friends struggle to understand what happened, they don’t want to be around me because I am not my usually happy self. I am often difficult to be around.
“My relationship and outlook on men in general has completely changed. I am so scared and intimidated of any man.”
2018 rape investigation
While in police custody, we worked with the Crown Prosecution Service and Gloucestershire Police to re-examine a rape case from October 2018.
Austin picked up a girl, who was 17 years old at the time, in Dursley and promised to take her to the railway station. On route he convinced her to come back to his remote caravan in Berkeley and bought her cannabis.
When she later asked to be taken to the station as planned, he refused and raped her. She reported what happened to the police the following day when safe to do so.
An investigation was carried out by Gloucestershire Police but Austin was not prosecuted on the grounds of insufficient evidence. However he was charged in October 2022 following the case being re-examined.
‘I thought I was going to be killed’
The victim, who is now an adult, still struggles to put into words how what happened affected her in 2018 and continues to four-and-a-half years on.
In her victim personal statement, she said: “I wish I never went through it, but I did. I know now how strong it’s made me become and made me who I am today. It made me realise that I am strong because I thought I was going to be killed that night.
“I was in the middle of nowhere. Nowhere to go or anyone to turn to. I thought ‘this is it’ that night and have continued thinking that afterwards.”
She continued: “I felt scared that night with Leon. Scared is an understatement but big words won’t describe the emotions I felt.
“After the incident I didn’t want to be around men and I thought I hated them. I didn’t want to be touched by one or even have one around me.
“Every time I got in the shower and bath for months after the incident I didn’t even wash myself properly. I just sat in the bath or shower and just let the water hit my body. I would cry and just think back to the time I had been raped. I didn’t even want to touch myself, I felt so dirty and disgusting after what had happened.
“It caused my drinking and drug issues to get a lot worse. My self-confidence got completely destroyed. Every time I looked at myself I felt disgusted and just saw ugliness. I questioned my worth all the time. I really hated everything and everyone.”
Dangerous predator jailed
Austin, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty in January to five counts of rape – two relating to 2018 and three to 2022 – and one count of attempting to choke, suffocate or strangle with intent to commit rape.
He received a 20-year custodial sentence at Bristol Crown Court on Friday 24 March and will need to serve five years on licence upon release.
His Honour Judge Michael Cullum described Austin as a dangerous offender and a man who posed a significant risk to women. He also praised the victims’ for their courage.
Officer in the case DC Carl Spicer said: “Austin is sexual predator who targeted younger vulnerable and alone females, providing them with drink or drugs. He then ignored their wishes when they did not consent to sex.”
DC Spicer added: “Both women have shown incredible levels of bravery and courage to report what happened to them and they should feel proud that by doing so has meant a dangerous man is behind bars.
“While I hope this sentence brings them both some closure, it is important to recognise the impact of what they have been through is far-reaching and this hearing doesn’t magically erase what has happened.
“The testimonies both women provided – in which they talk about how their lives have changed – are incredibly powerful and I am sure will strike a chord with anyone who has been sexually assaulted.
“It is difficult to hear a victim talk about how they don’t feel comfortable being the same person they were before, and the lifestyle changes they feel they have had to make afterwards to feel safer.
“It cannot be stressed enough that it’s never the victim’s fault for what has happened to them; it is solely the perpetrator’s.
“Avon and Somerset Police remains committed to tackling violence against women and by having a perpetrator focus we hope to continue to give victims the confidence to report what has had happened to them, offer whatever support they need and to ensure predators such as Austin are jailed for their horrific crimes.”
Victims of rape or sexual assault, recent or non-recent, can self-refer to The Bridge, a Sexual Assault Referral Centre available 24/7 365 days a year. Visit their website or call 0117 342 6999.
They can also visit www.thisisnotanexcuse.org for details of charities and organisations who are experts in supporting victims.
For more information about reporting rape and other sexual offences, visit www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/report/rape-and-sexual-assault