A child rapist who almost escaped punishment after he tricked a judge and two psychiatrists into thinking he was severely disabled has been jailed for more than 26 years.
George Stephenson, 60, pretended he could not speak, made unintelligible noises during consultations, needed to be pushed in a wheelchair by his wife, was incontinent and appeared not to be able to follow proceedings.
But when police later carried out covert surveillance, they saw he was capable of driving a camper van and they filmed him walking, eating a Burger King at a service station and filling up a can of petrol, Newcastle crown court heard.
When officers went to arrest him at his home in Sunderland, he managed to climb on to a shed roof and held them off for an hour as he brandished a piece of wood.
Footage from an officer’s body-worn camera showed him arguing with the police as they tried to talk him down.
Stephenson was jailed for 26 years and four months after he was convicted of 14 counts of rape on a girl, and admitted a charge of perverting the course of justice.
His wife Wendy Stephenson, 68, who helped in his deception, was jailed for three years and 10 months after she admitted perverting the course of justice and two sexual offences.
Anne Richardson, prosecuting, said when his victim came forward in 2015, police did not initially interview Stephenson because of his supposed cognitive impairment.
The following year, when the couple appeared before a judge at Newcastle crown court, Stephenson was in a wheelchair pushed by his wife and “presented as someone who was completely incapable of comprehending anything, let alone court proceedings”, Richardson said.
She called his performance in court “Oscar-winning” and said he was a “complete fraud”.
A psychiatrist for the defence held a consultation with him, in which the wife provided all the information “as it was impossible to interview Mr Stephenson due to his level of distress and lack of communication”, and she claimed he needed 24-hour care, the court heard.
A prosecution psychiatrist was instructed and Stephenson made unintelligible sounds throughout, so it was concluded he was unfit to stand trial.
In November 2017 a jury found he had committed the sexual acts as alleged. Sentencing was adjourned pending the outcome of his wife’s trial for sexual offences, but it was said it was unlikely he would have been jailed due to his supposed disability.
Wendy Stephenson admitted two counts of indecent assault, and before she was sentenced told police how her husband had faked his disability, leading them to carry out the surveillance.
He then had to be tried for the rapes and was convicted last month, having forced his victim to go through the ordeal of giving evidence twice.
Judge Tim Gittins said Stephenson suffered from epilepsy, a mild tremor and walked with a limp. He added: “It has been manifestly exaggerated by you for prolonged periods and it is difficult to unpick the layers.”
Alasdair Campbell, defending, said Stephenson had written a letter apologising to his victim and to the court.
Tony Hawks, for Wendy Stephenson, said she was subjected to her husband’s coercive and controlling behaviour.