A woman who has turned her life round since she took part in the kidnapping of a Rugby teenager who was taken to a flat where she was then raped has avoided being jailed.
Helen Thompson (43) of Morris Close, Rugby, had pleaded not guilty to taking part in the kidnapping, but was convicted by a jury at Warwick Crown Court.
She had stood trial earlier this year with two men, Peter Jones and Raymond Dickens, who have both since been jailed for a string of serious sexual offences against young women.
Sentence on Thompson, who had acted as the driver when Jones had kidnapped one of his victims before raping her at his flat, had been adjourned for a pre-sentence report.
Following the adjournment, Thompson was sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended for a year.
During the trial, the jury heard that Jones and Dickens were at the heart of a prostitution business in Rugby in the 1990s, targeting vulnerable teenagers who were raped and sexually assaulted and forced to work as prostitutes for them.
Prosecutor Michael Shaw said there were periods when Jones could not drive himself, because he had been banned, and he was driven around by others including Thompson.
One girl was threatened by Jones and bundled into the back of a car driven by Thompson, before, because she wouldn’t stop crying, putting her in the boot and taking her back to his flat.
Thompson’s involvement ended at that point, but the jury heard that once back at his flat, Jones had raped the girl.
At the resumed hearing Thompson’s barrister Mohammed Latif said: “This is a sad case, both for the complainant, inevitably, but also for the defendant.
“She too was effectively the victim of others who used her. At the time she was a vulnerable person herself. She was exploited.
“She has had to re-live her past from 20 years ago, and it has been a painful experience for her.
“Since then, she has built a life for herself, working hard and putting her past life behind her. She did not let her past define her.”
And of her part in the kidnapping, Mr Latif pointed out: “She was the driver of the vehicle, she didn’t say or do anything. She didn’t have any knowledge of what happened after they arrived, she simply left after Peter Jones and the victim got out.
Judge Sylvia de Bertodano told Thompson: “Your part in all of this was a limited one, in that on one occasion Peter Jones bundled that young woman into the boot of a car which you then drove to his flat. That was the extent of your involvement.
“I don’t mean to belittle it, because what happened to her at that flat was truly terrible, and you could of course have said no.
“But there is no suggestion this wouldn’t have happened if you had not helped him. Someone else would have done so, because he had considerable power in that community at that time.
“You are not the woman now that you were when you were a teenager. You have worked hard to put that behind you, and it would be quite unfair of me to send you to prison today.”
Jones (55) of Wheelwright Lane, Coventry, was jailed in June for 22 years as part of an extended sentence – and will have to serve at least two-thirds of that before the Parole Board will even consider his release.
Dickens (53) of Langdale Close, Rugby, was jailed for 16 years – and they both have to register as sex offenders for life.
Jones had been convicted at the end of a six-week trial of the kidnapping and of raping that girl and two other victims, while Dickens was convicted of two charges of raping another girl.
Both men were also convicted of other sexual offences, and of causing or inciting girls into prostitution.