Thursday, 2 December 2021

Couple jailed for sexual abuse of woman kept as prisoner


LONDON: A married couple in Co Armagh who sexually abused a woman held prisoner in their home for six years have been sentenced to a total of 18 years in prison. Keith Baker was sentenced MAR2to 15 years in prison while his wife Caroline was given a three year sentence, of which 18 months must be served in jail and the remaining 18 months on licence. The now 53-year-old woman was taken from her home in England in 2004 and brought to Craigavon, Co Armagh, by the Bakers.  They kept the woman, who has severe learning difficulties, in a squalid room without a source of light, bedclothes or curtains in the house. The bathroom floor was covered in human waste and her mattress was badly stained. Neighbours did not know she was there. There was no handle on the inside of the door and there was a CCTV camera on the ceiling to record the abuse. Sentencing the couple in Craigavon Court this morning, Judge Patrick Lynch said it was not easy to understand how “these individuals have so lost their moral compasses” that they could subject the woman, who clearly exhibited mental difficulties, to such mistreatment and deprive her of her dignity and the most basic of living standards. He said they ensured no one outside the household knew of her existence. Keith Baker was also living with a third woman, who eventually alerted police. Judge Lynch said Keith Baker was a Svengali figure exercising control over three women with his dominant personality and willingness to resort to violence. The perpetrators filmed themselves attacking their naked and helpless victim. The judge said: “She lacked the capacity to make decisions and was regarded as a mentally disordered person and did not have capacity to consent to sex.”

Keith Baker, 61 whose address was given as prison, and Caroline Baker, 54, pleaded guilty to sexual activity involving penetration and causing a person with a mental disorder to engage in sexual  MAR1activity. Keith Baker was also charged with rape and indecent assault. Caroline Baker was charged with aiding and abetting rape and other sexual offences including indecent assault. Sentencing Caroline Baker, the judge said he found it hard to understand how she could show such little sympathy for the victim who became emaciated and was living in disgraceful conditions, which could have been remedied. Judge Lynch said he believed she would not be a future threat to society if she did not have contact with her husband, but he did believe Keith Baker posed a threat and was highly likely to re-offend. On completion of his 15 year sentence Keith Baker must remain on licence for a further five years. Police rescued the woman from the house in Craigavon in 2012 after another woman living there alerted them to her. During a search of the house police discovered videos of the Bakers abusing her. The judge said the photos and videos were recorded over an extended period because the woman went from looked well nourished to being emaciated. Initially the couple both claimed the sexual activity was consensual and the woman had instigated it but later they pleaded guilty.

Couple met while working for Salvation Army

A total of eight children also lived in the house, along with another woman who was another partner to Keith Baker.  The judge said the household was “highly unorthodox” and the victim was totally isolated from the rest of society. Her words when she was released from captivity were: “Yes, freedom.” She did not appear on the electoral register, was not with a GP or dentist and never claimed benefits. Her abusers took material showing Keith Baker having sex with his partner and the victim, almost every time naked, the judge said. At one stage she was told she had “learned quite a bit” over the last few years. She went from being well-nourished to becoming emaciated, extremely thin with a distended abdomen. The judge commented: “She did not even know the name of the perpetrator.” When she was released she did not want to be left alone in the room.

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