July 2017

Ex-soldier jailed for raping and killing schoolgirl sentenced to additional three years for sexual assault offence

An ex-soldier jailed for the rape and manslaughter of a schoolgirl more than 40 years ago has been sentenced to an additional three years imprisonment after pleading guilty to the sexual assault of a girl last year.

Stephen Hough was sentenced to the additional three years at Mold Crown Court on Monday afternoon after pleading guilty to the sexual assault of a girl under 16.

On Monday morning, Hough, from Flint had been sentenced to 12 years after being convicted of the rape and manslaughter of schoolgirl Janet Commins in 1976.

The conviction came following a trial at the court.

Janet went missing after leaving her home to go swimming on 7 January 1976.

Four days later, her body was found under a thicket near a school playing field by three children playing hide and seek.

She had been suffocated during a sexual assault.

Noel Jones, who was 18 at the time, admitted killing her and served half of a 12-year prison sentence.

Although he has never challenged his conviction, he told Hough’s trial he was made a scapegoat by police because he was a barely literate Gypsy.

Hough was questioned after Janet’s death but was ruled out by police after he said he was stealing petrol the night she was killed – an offence for which he was fined.

In 2016, his DNA was taken by police in an unrelated matter and a match was found with samples taken from Janet’s body at the time.

The jury heard it was a billion times more likely to belong to Hough than anyone else.

The 58-year-old was due to stand trial in September in Newport charged with the rape and sexual assault of a girl aged 15 last year, charges of which the jury in the Janet Commins trial were never made aware.

On Monday, Hough pleaded not guilty to rape but pleaded guilty to serious sexual assault.

The prosecution accepted the plea.

Sentencing him to three years, which will be added to his 12 year sentence, taking it to 15 years, the judge said: “The circumstances in which you come to plead guilty are unusual.”

“You were a 57-year-old man when you deliberately preyed on a young 15-year-old,” Mr Justice Lewis said.

“The three years (with a quarter reduced for the guilty plea) will be consecutive to the sentences imposed earlier today,” he added.

Hough will also have his name added to the sex offender’s register.

Mold Crown Court heard how Hough was working as a long distance lorry driver and was separated from his second wife at the time of the 2016 sexual assault.

In mitigation, defence barrister Patrick Harrington QC said he should be given credit for his guilty plea and said he has been a hardworking man throughout his life and will likely face the possibility of being homeless when he is released from prison.

In an impact statement read to the court, the victim said: “There hasn’t been a day where I haven’t been reminded of what happened.

“It makes me feel sick and upset.

“It’s something I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life and has impacted me and my family.

“It’s closed me off from the rest of society.”

The court heard Hough had been court-martialled in 1988 for grievous bodily harm with intent while serving as a soldier in Germany.

He attacked a hotel receptionist and was in the process of “strangling” her when he was disturbed by others.

He was jailed for five years, reduced through the ranks and discharged.