REGIONAL: A 'predatory' rapist who groomed a young girl is jailed for more than two decades

Craig Knight.
Craig Knight.

A 'dangerous' sex offender who groomed and abused a girl over a number of years has been sentenced to 26 years in prison.

Craig Knight, 31, preyed on the vulnerable schoolgirl when she was just 12 years old, and travelled from Surrey to Lancashire to abuse her.

On June 7, 2017, officers from Lancashire Constabulary attended an address in Blackpool following concerns for the welfare of Knight. When they arrived at the house they became concerned about the nature of the relationship between Knight, and a 16-year-old girl who introduced him as her 'boyfriend'.

She later disclosed she had been sexually abused by Knight for several years.

Knight, whose address was given as HMP Preston, was arrested and interviewed but continued to target the girl while on bail, committing a number of other offences against her as well as a male victim of the same age.

On June 9th he vandalised the teen's car, filling the exhaust with expanding foam, and scratching the bodywork.

He returned to the area on June 10, travelling in a hire vehicle to avoid detection, armed with a gas powered pistol, a bottle containing petrol, flame proof gloves and a knife. He was stopped by the victim's father and friend before he could cause any serious harm and subsequently remanded in custody.

At a trial at Preston Crown Court, Knight was convicted of five counts of rape of a child under 13, three counts of sexual activity with a child, two counts of affray, witness intimidation, possession of a knife, possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, and two counts of theft. He pleaded guilty to criminal damage before the trial.

Judge Sara Dodd handed him 17 years with a four year extended licence for the sexual offences against the girl and four years with an extra year on licence for the violent offences, to run consecutively. She also made Knight the subject of a lifetime Sexual Harm Prevention Order and put him on the Sex Offenders Register for life.

Det Con Paul Moon, of Lancashire Constabulary’s Awaken Team, said: “This young woman was groomed by Knight for a number of years.

“Knight took advantage of her vulnerability and that of her family to put himself in a position of trust.

“He abused that trust and when he realised he was losing control of his victim, used threats of violence and weapons to intimidate her.

“This was a very frightening and traumatic experience for this young woman, who has had her teenage years taken from her by this dangerous and predatory individual.

“She has shown extraordinary courage in coming forwards to testify against Knight.

“I hope today’s sentence brings some comfort and she is now able to start rebuilding her life.”