Schoolgirl's old diary and 'Agony Aunt' letter used to expose Northamptonshire rally driver who sexually abused her, court hears

Matt Stephens was jailed at Canterbury Crown Court for the historic sexual abuse.
Matt Stephens was jailed at Canterbury Crown Court for the historic sexual abuse.

A former rally driver from Northamptonshire has been jailed for sexually abusing a 14-year-old schoolgirl.

Matt Stephens, 51, from Silverstone, was sentenced in Canterbury Crown Court yesterday (June 27) after earlier being found guilty of 12 sex charges.

Stephens was a former rally driver in Northamptonshire.

Stephens was a former rally driver in Northamptonshire.

The historic offences from 15 years ago included an incident where he took the young girl to a hotel for sex after seducing her with champagne and strawberries.

Stephens, then aged 36, told her he was 29 and used his "charm" to carry out the abuse, the court heard.

Recorder Gareth Branston, in sentencing, said Stephens targeted his victim after visiting a teen chatroom.

He said: "You managed to fool her and she was flattered by the attention of an older man.

“You groomed her and you travelled from Oxford to Margate to meet her. You claimed you went there to investigate business opportunities but the jury rejected that.”

The schoolgirl was so upset by her ordeals that she later wrote to the Sun’s Agony Aunt 'Dear Deirdre' column for advice.

It was more than a decade before she reported the assaults.

When he was arrested, Stephens claimed the girl was a "fantasist" who made up the allegations.

However, the jury heard she had kept details about the incident in a diary, including a copy of the "Agony Aunt" article.

The court also heard how on a number of other occasions Stephens took his victim to a Margate pub and a water treatment plant to sexually assault her.

And he would later take her to another hotel where he again plied her with champagne and strawberries before sexually abusing her.

Recorder Branston said: "You manipulated her and wheedled yourself into her affections for your own sexual gain.

"You flattered and charmed your way into her life. You took advantage of her naivety and ignored her embarrassment."

Stephens was jailed at Canterbury Crown Court for a total of eight years.

An NSPCC spokesperson said: "Justice has finally caught up with Stephens thanks to his victim's bravery in speaking out about her harrowing ordeal.

"He groomed a vulnerable child both online and in person before repeatedly sexually assaulting her.

"Stevens must receive treatment in prison as part of his sentence to reduce any further risk to children he poses when he is eventually released."

Anyone with concerns about abuse can call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 or Childline, 24-hours-a-day and for free on 0800 1111.