The Match.com rapist, Jason Lawrance, has been jailed for a minimum of 12.5 years for raping five women he met on the online dating site.
Yesterday, Derby Crown Court found the 50-year-old guilty of raping five women and assaulting two more after arranging to meet them on the popular dating site.
The jury heard that the Hampshire man used two different profiles, “keepitstraighttoday” and “straightmanlooking” to meet seven women between June 2011 and November 2014.
And today, eight of the 12 jurors returned for the sentencing, however none of the victims returned to court.
During the sentencing, Judge Gregory Dickinson said: “There is a significant risk to members of the public of serious harm occasioned by the commission of further offences.
“That is the conclusion I have reached in this case, the imposition of a sentence of imprisonment for life is fully justified.
“You have left behind a trail of agony. You have shown no remorse, frankly zero application of the seriousness of these offences, of the pain you have inflicted on these ladies, their families and friends.”
Police began investigating Lawrance after receiving a call back in November 2014 from a woman who claimed one of her friends had been raped by him.
However, Lawrance denied all allegations against him, saying he had consensual sex with all the victims.
Earlier today, Shaun Smith QC, prosecuting said: “Each of the victims spoke eloquently in terms of how this affected their trust in men and their loss of confidence.
“Many of them feel anxiety and tearfulness. Some of them, who were attacked in their own homes, continue to suffer fear in those homes.
“Others are aware he knows where they live and continue to fear that he might still try to contact them.”
After meeting Lawrance on Match.com, four of the seven victims reported him to the online dating site, but the company said they could not remove his profile.
Match.com apparently told one victim “it couldn’t do anything because he hadn’t sent any abusive messages via their website.”
Speaking about online dating’s part in the case, Judge Dickinson said: “I would like to see if lessons can be learned on the use of such sites. I may have something to say or ask tomorrow about that.”
And Derbyshire’s police and crime commissioner Alan Charles even went on to call the internet “the darkest alley of all”, prompting the following front page of the Daily Mail.
Charles said: “Clearly the popularity of any website where personal information is required does raise the question of security and more needs to be done to keep people aware of the dangers.
“The police, specialist crime agencies and website experts must really focus hard on improving security and safety nets in all areas of internet usage.”
In response, a spokesperson for Match said:
“Having worked with the police on this case for more than a year, we welcome the jury’s verdict and today’s sentence.
“We are very sorry for those affected and appalled by these terrible acts. We commend these individuals for their courage in coming forward which resulted in a conviction.
“Our policy has always been to encourage our members to communicate with others within our site/app, where we can offer a degree of protection.
“When people move beyond what we are able to see, it is very difficult for us to adjudicate on what might have happened.
“At the time of this offence, we therefore took the view that we could only act on events which we could verify, such as written messages.
“Our customer service team would encourage members to report an incident to the police and we would remove people once the police had asked us to do so.”
The dating brand also said it has updated its procedures and introduced a “zero tolerance policy” for reports of serious offences that happen on its site.
The company also said it would work with personal safety charity Suzy Lamplugh Trust, to create an industry initiative to help spot suspicious behaviour and to look after people who have been traumatised.
Speaking about the verdict, and the attack on the online dating industry from the press and law enforcement officials, the Chief Executive of the ODA, George Kidd, said: “The ODA was set up by companies that saw the importance of the sector working together to set and maintain standards and to give users the advice, guidance and signposting so they can have a safe as well as positive experience.
“That can mean looking at profiles with skilled staff and software tools, providing safe monitored chat rooms, giving practical advice on safety and removing people whose behaviour is seen to be unacceptable or worse. No system is perfect but the safeguards matter to sites.
“Incidents linked to dating sites may be a fraction of one percent of the total reported but one attack has to be one too many. We are looking with the National Crime Agency and others at what more can be done to keep dating safe, and Judge Dickinson is right in saying that has to include learning lessons from the Lawrance case.”
Read more about the case here.