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Man admits string of assaults and rapes in Highlands and Moray

Sean Hartley appeared at the High Court in Inverness
Sean Hartley appeared at the High Court in Inverness

A man has been warned he faces a lengthy prison sentence after he admitted a string of assaults and rapes across the Highlands and Moray.

Sean Hartley, 34, pled guilty to three charges of assault, two of rape, one of sexual assault and rape and one of engaging in a course of behaviour that was abusive towards a partner or ex-partner on the day his High Court trial was due to begin.

The crimes took place over the course of 15 years and were committed against five women.

The High Court in Inverness heard that the oldest offences dated back to 2004 with the most recent having occurred in 2019.

Man spat on victims

Advocate depute Lisa Gillespie told the court how Hartley targeted women in physical and sexual attacks – slapping, punching and kicking his victims, as well as spitting on them and calling them derogatory names.

During two of the attacks he compressed his victims’ necks, restricting their breathing and during another he held a pillow over a woman’s face.

The court heard how one woman received what she described as “the worst beating” at the hands of Hartley, during which she was “crying and begging him to stop”.

The assault left the woman in such a state that she could “barely recognise herself”, the court was told.

Rape survivor ‘told him no’

Ms Gillespie told the court that during one of the rapes the woman “repeatedly told him no but he insisted”.

After another rape he apologised to his victim.

The court also heard how Hartley had subjected a former partner to a campaign of abuse which included physical assaults and threats to kill.

Ms Gillespie detailed how Hartley had prevented the woman from contacting friends and family during their relationship and had kept constant tabs on her whereabouts, often demanding she send him pictures of her surroundings when they were apart.

He also told the woman what clothes she was allowed to wear, forbidding anything that revealed her body, Ms Gillespie said.

‘Very, very serious matters’

Lord Mulholland deferred sentence to next month for the preparation of reports and remanded Hartley in custody in the meantime.

He also made Hartley subject to the notification requirements of the sex offenders register and told him: “These are very, very serious matters and you will receive a lengthy sentence of imprisonment.”

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