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20 May 2011, 13:33
A man described as ‘one of Dorset’s most dangerous sex offenders’ has been found guilty of raping and assaulting vulnerable women in the Bournemouth area – following an investigation by Dorset Police’s Major Crime Team.
Gene ‘Barry’ Benjamin, of Belle Vue Road in the Southbourne area, was convicted of seven counts of rape, eight counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and one count of grievous bodily harm following an 8-week-long trial at Bournemouth Crown Court that ended on Thursday, 19 May 2011.
The court heard that Benjamin had subjected numerous women, most of whom worked as prostitutes in the East Bournemouth area, to attacks between 2005 and 2010.
It is believed that many of the victims refrained from speaking with police due to a fear of further violence from Benjamin.
Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Connolly, the Senior Investigating Officer, said: “This verdict comes at the end of a long and complex investigation into the violent relationships that Benjamin had with numerous extremely vulnerable women.
“The Public Protection Unit commenced an operation in July 2009 and began to try and secure the willing support of Benjamin’s victims.
“Originally we approached his victims who had moved from the Bournemouth area, while monitoring his activity so that he didn’t harm anyone else. This was necessary because Benjamin was still living locally and we had insufficient evidence to prosecute him.
“Eventually we were able to gather enough evidence to charge him with a number of offences, remand him in custody and secure the safety of those around him.
“During our detailed investigation more than 25 potential victims were spoken to – ten of those women were brave enough to give evidence against Benjamin. They were very open about their own vulnerability through drug misuse, involvement in prostitution and the offences committed against them, which convinced the jury he was a serial sexual offender – a rapist.”
Benjamin was arrested on Tuesday, 29 June 2010. He was charged in early July 2010 with 18 counts of rape, nine counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, one count of grievous bodily harm and one count of false imprisonment.
He was found guilty of seven counts of rape, eight counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and one count of grievous bodily harm.
DCI Connolly continued: “This is a significant outcome in terms of bringing one of Dorset’s most dangerous sex offenders to justice.
“All the victims and the witnesses showed great courage and I would like to thank them for trusting our investigation team.
“It’s been a very difficult time for Benjamin’s victims – dealing with their own personal difficulties, while also finding the strength to give evidence against somebody who was a real threat in their community.
“They’ve all supported one another by doing the right thing and I hope today’s verdict demonstrates what can be achieved if victims have confidence in the police and enable us to do our job.
“I would also like to express my gratitude to the Dorset Working Women’s Project, whose support was essential to the enquiry.
“They interact with sex workers on a weekly basis and helped to identify and protect victims while the investigation progressed. They also provided corroboration for some of the offences going back as far as 2005.”
Pauline Smyth, from the Dorset Working Women’s Project, said: “I would like to commend the women for their bravery – there would not have been a case without them.
“I am extremely pleased that a very dangerous man has been removed from the community.
“Sex workers are members of the community and have the right to protection from violence. I would encourage people involved in sex work to come forward and report crimes committed against them.
“Dorset Police has done an excellent job and made it clear that crimes against sex workers will be taken seriously and victims treated with respect.”
DCI Connolly added: “I am delighted with the verdict. This represents the real benefits in Dorset’s approach to supporting victims. The Force restructured some time ago and put a lot of effort and emphasis into public protection.
“Public protection deals with victims whatever their background or vulnerability.
“I hope this sends out a clear message that we are very keen to hear from anybody who has been subject to any form of sexual attack or violence. We will take such reports very seriously and will actively prosecute offenders.”
Gene Benjamin will return to the same court in July for sentencing.