Quashed acquittal: rapist jailed

This Is Local London: Harbinder Khatkar, from Derby, has been ordered to serve at least 14 years after being convicted of rapes committed in December 2011 and February 2013 (Derbyshire Police) Harbinder Khatkar, from Derby, has been ordered to serve at least 14 years after being convicted of rapes committed in December 2011 and February 2013 (Derbyshire Police)

A violent rapist has been jailed for life after a landmark legal ruling in which his original acquittal for the offence was quashed by the Court of Appeal.

Harbinder Khatkar, from Derby, has been ordered to serve at least 14 years after being convicted of offences committed in December 2011 and February 2013.

The 37-year-old attacked six women on February 2 this year - less than six weeks after a jury acquitted him of an earlier rape in which he forced his way into the victim's home.

Following Khatkar's arrest for the later offences, the CPS successfully sought permission from judges to re-try him by arguing that his subsequent crimes were so similar they amounted to new and compelling evidence of guilt.

The successful prosecution of Khatkar is only the 13th time the CPS has applied to quash an acquittal since "double jeopardy" laws - preventing defendants being tried twice for the same offence - were scrapped.

Khatkar, of Moorside Crescent, Sinfin, was jailed yesterday after being found guilty of 18 offences including rape, sexual assault, assault by beating, and trespass with intent to commit a sexual offence.

After his conviction, the CPS said the earlier crime was strikingly similar to and had all the hallmarks of the later offences.

In a statement issued after the case, Steve Chappell, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS East Midlands, described the offences committed in February as terrifying and relentless.

Mr Chappell said: "The way he went about attacking these women was so similar to the allegations he had previously faced, we asked the Court of Appeal to consider whether he should be retried for his original offences, on the basis that his subsequent offending provided new and compelling evidence and it was in the interests of justice for the case to be retried by a jury.

"The Court of Appeal allowed our application and he has now faced justice for all the offences he committed.

"The new evidence which formed the basis for our application to quash the acquittal was unrelated to the original offence, but showed a very similar pattern of behaviour.

"It was a terrifying experience for all Harbinder Khatkar's victims and they have shown great courage in coming to court to give evidence about what happened to them."

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Alison Levitt QC, principal legal adviser at the CPS, stressed that the "exceptional power" to quash acquittals had been used sparingly since its introduction eight years ago.

Ms Levitt said: "In 2005 the law was changed to allow what is called bad character evidence, which is evidence that somebody has done something so similar or of the same type of offence on another occasion.

"It's a very exceptional power.

"When something has gone wrong and the evidence is strong enough, as we said it was in this case, it is only right that we should use it."

The victim of the offence committed in 2011 was repeatedly raped and threatened with death, but Khatkar was initially cleared after telling a number of elaborate lies.

Asked why the action taken against Khatkar was previously not allowed in the justice system, Ms Levitt added: "The law is constantly evolving, it reacts to circumstances.

"Nobody would suggest that it was necessarily wrong what had happened before but subsequent events show us that perhaps allowing juries to apply their common sense is in fact a very straightforward way of achieving justice."

Detective Inspector Doug Naden, who led the Derbyshire Police inquiry, said: "Khatkar is a predatory sex offender who will rightly spend a long time behind bars reflecting on what he has done.

"These are some of the worst crimes imaginable and they have had a devastating and lasting impact on the victims and their families.

"I would like to recognise the bravery and resilience the victims have shown throughout the investigation and in facing their attacker in court, which must have been incredibly traumatic."

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