A RAPIST who subjected his victim to a terrifying ordeal in a car has been jailed.

A court heard 'immature' Howard Rowley prevented the woman from leaving a vehicle by striking her, pulling her hair and forcing her to drive him against her will.

The now 24-year-old then subjected her to sexual abuse in the vehicle in Dalton.

Rowley, who was 21 at the time, was found guilty after a trial of kidnap, rape, and sexual assault by penetration and has been jailed for seven years and six months.

Judge Robert Altham, sitting at Preston Crown Court, said: “A guilty plea would have made an enormous difference in this case.

“He had his chance and not taking that chance has consequences.

“It is notable how damaging giving evidence in a trial can be for a victim.

“I hope the defendant has read and digested what has been said and will learn from this.”

The offences relate to an incident that took place in the early hours of March 18, 2018 between Barrow and Dalton.

Paul Brookswell, prosecuting, said the victim, who cannot be named as she has a lifetime legal right to anonymity, had lost all confidence since the incident.

He said she had a visible lack of sleep when giving evidence in court. Since the incident though, the prosecution explained that she has restarted to trust in people once again.

Sharon Watson, for Rowley, said he was an immature 21-year-old at the time and had been a law-abiding citizen since he was 17, urging the judge to give a reduced sentence.

Rowley, of Devoke Water Gardens, Dalton, was sentenced to seven years and six months and must serve at least two thirds in prison before he is eligible for release.

Rowley will also be required to sign on to the sexual offenders register.

Detective Constable Matt McFall, of Barrow Crime and safeguarding team, said: “I would like to reassure the public that this was an isolated incident and that no other people were involved.

“It is an understatement to say this was a terrifying and upsetting ordeal for the victim and I really want to make clear my appreciation for her coming forward and trusting the police to deal with her sensitively and professionally.

“Cumbria Constabulary is committed to thoroughly and compassionately investigating all reports of rape and serious sexual offences.

“We will not stop in our drive to bring offenders to justice and hopefully this outcome will help to encourage victims of serious sexual offences to have the confidence to come forward and report it.

“In delivering guilty verdicts the jury has given the victim the validation and closure she rightly deserved and I hope she can look forward to the next chapter in her life.”

If you wish to report a crime or speak to an officer about an incident, contact Cumbria Police on 101 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

If you have been affected by rape or sexual assault, contact The Bridgeway Sexual Assault Support Service’s 24/7 free helpline on 0808 118 6432.