AddThis SmartLayers

Contempt order lifted as journalist convicted of rape

A weekly publisher overturned a contempt of court order after a former national newspaper journalist was convicted of rape.

Ben Leapman, a former political journalist and deputy news editor of the Sunday Telegraph, was found guilty of a specimen charge of rape by an 11-1 majority verdict and acquitted of two others.

The 43-year-old was instrumental in the Telegraph’s expose of the MPs’ expenses scandal in 2009 and was described in court as a “distinguished person with many qualities to be admired.”

However a judge at Maidstone Crown Court told Leapman he had become “obsessed with violence and sexual abuse of women” and remanded him in custody pending sentencing in the autumn.

The Dartford Messenger and its companion website Kent Online has been covering the case as Leapman, now of Lambeth, South London, had previously lived in Dartford.

It successfully applied to overturn a contempt of court order which had banned reporting of Leapman’s convictions in August last year for four offences of making indecent photos of a child and four of publishing an obscene article.

Charles Danniells-Smith, defending Leapman, said his client had lost everything, including his glittering career.

He said that after uncovering the expenses scandal, Leapman had sought “pressure release” by getting involved in a fantasy world.

The trial had earlier heard evidence of Leapman’s use of internet chatrooms where visitors discussed their sexual fantasies.

Following the journalist’s conviction, Judge Martin Joy told him:  “There was clear evidence from chat logs of your depraved behaviour. At one stage you said it had become completely out of control.”

Judge Joy said that the victim, who cannot be identified had suffered “complete destruction of her dignity.”

He told Leapman: “You caused her humiliation, degradation, distress, pain, loss of her dignity and loss of her self-worth and self-esteem. You became obsessed with violence and sexual abuse of women.

“Effectively, this is a man who has got a dangerous fixation who otherwise has many qualities to be admired. He is a distinguished person of good character. That character has, of course, been completely destroyed.”

The judge said Leapman’s obsession with a unnatural form of sex was “a very worrying factor” and added: “You are in reality a person with a very high and dangerous sex drive.”

Sentencing was adjourned for reports until a date to be arranged in September and a bail application was refused.

Remanding Leapman in custody, Judge Joy told him: “You have been convicted on compelling evidence. It seems very obvious to me that you are a danger.”