A DEPRAVED rapist who preyed on 14 teenage girls and young women who he met through Facebook, Tinder and Snapchat has been jailed for a maximum of 40 years in one of the worst cases of serial sexual assault in the Hunter’s history.
Andrew James Benn, now 29, of North Rothbury, will be 57 and will have spent more than half his life behind bars when he first becomes eligible for parole in 2047 after he was ordered on Thursday to serve a non-parole period of 30 years in jail for 33 offences, including 21 counts of rape.
The public gallery in Newcastle District Court was packed with victims and their supporters as Judge Roy Ellis read a lengthy judgement which detailed Benn's depraved acts, which included repeatedly raping women, forcing himself on girls using "extreme violence", sex with girls as young as 15, blackmailing and threatening victims that the "Hells Angels" would "make them disappear" if they went to police and laughing in the face of desperate and crying victims.
“The treatment of the many victims was nothing short of despicable,” Judge Ellis said. “His conduct over the four-year period was evil.
“He left a path of emotional and physical damage for the victims.
“The sentence I impose is unlikely to the mitigate the harm for the victims, but hopefully it provides some sort of closure.”
The sexual assaults, which spanned four years from 2012, increased in frequency and seriousness in the lead-up to Benn's arrest in January, 2017, the court heard.
Three of the 14 victims read powerful victim impact statements on Thursday, describing how their lives spiraled out of control after they met Benn.
At least two victims had contemplated or attempted suicide, one lost her job and ended up homeless, another failed Year 11 and dropped out of school.
“I felt guilty and I blamed myself and I still do to this day,” one victim told the court.
Another victim said she used to be carefree, but now had an irrational fear that someone would attack her.
“I hate myself everyday,” she said.
What ended in sexual assault or rape usually started with a Facebook friend request.
Or a match on Tinder.
And then Benn would organise to meet up with his new “friend” for a date or to go for a drive.
But what started out as a friendship or consensual sexual activity soon became far more sinister as Benn forced himself on his victims, held them down and ignored their pleas for him to stop.
Benn, who had become a heavy ice user over the four-year period, was essentially an “untreated sex offender” his barrister, Rebecca Suters, said.
In 2012, when he was 23, Benn twice had sex with a girl when she was 15 and then 16.
After the second time the girl left her iPod in his car and Benn used it to try and blackmail her into committing more sexual acts on him.
“Sex three times a week for a month and let me do whatever I want to u,” Benn wrote to the girl.
Later, when the girl said she didn’t want her iPod back, Benn said he would upload embarrassing and sensitive photographs of the girl online.
“You do realise that’s child [pornography],” the girl wrote. “And you will get in a lot of trouble. “You know I can charge you with rape?”
Benn replied: “Cool”.
In 2013, a 17-year-old girl received a Facebook friend request from Benn and, after a few weeks of chatting, the pair decided to meet up.
Benn was supposed to drive the girl into Newcastle, but instead went to a boat ramp at Morpeth where he raped her in the backseat.
When a few other cars arrived, he drove to the Morpeth cemetery where he again sexually assaulted the girl.
After sexually assaulting another girl in 2016, Benn warned her off calling the police.
“What happened tonight never leaves this room,” Benn told the girl.
“If the police come knocking on my door, my friends will come knocking on yours. “My friends are in the Hells Angels and they can make you disappear.”
Judge Ellis read out his “indicative sentences” for each of the 33 counts, which he said, if imposed, would result in an “American-style number” of 169 years in jail.
Instead, Judge Ellis imposed an aggregate sentence of 40 years, with a non-parole period of 30 years.
As Benn was being led down to the courthouse cells, his many victims sobbed and hugged.
“I want to pass on to all the victims present that I hope the finalisation of this matter does provide some closure for you all,” Judge Ellis said.
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