Sunderland sex attacker has 15-year sentence reduced

Paul Johnson.
Paul Johnson.

A sex attacker who was caged for 15 years after he beat, smothered and tried to rape a businesswoman in her home has has his jail sentence reduced.

Paul Johnson's victim, who was a stranger to him, said the horror ordeal he subjected her to was "stuff that nightmares are made of".

The attacker was jailed for 15 years at a court hearing last December but has now had his jail term lowered by one year and eight months after his legal team took his case back to court.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the 32-year-old brute had punched the woman "as many as 20 times", held a pillow over her face and tried to rape her in her blood-soaked bedroom.

She was left with bruising across "most of her body" from being repeatedly beaten by the attacker.

The court heard Johnson showed the victim that he was carrying a screw driver during the attack and claimed to have a gun before he left he scene.

In an attempt to save herself during the ordeal, during which she feared she would be killed, the brave victim allowed Johnson to use her phone to contact his girlfriend and even offered him a cup of tea.

He finally left the house, which is in the Sunderland area, with a large amount of his victim's cash and took her car.

He was arrested after a police pursuit, which ended in Durham city.

Johnson, of no fixed address, has previous convictions for violence, admitted attempted rape, robbery, aggravated vehicle taking, driving without a licence, having no insurance and driving while under the influence of drugs.

In December, Judge Stephen Earl sentenced him to 15 years behind bars with a four year extended licence period and sex offender registration for life.

Johnson was given a lifelong restraining order to ban him from attempting to make any contact with his victim.

Judge Earl told him at the time: "She was, it was clear to me, trying to diffuse the situation, even to the point she offered to make you a cup of tea for the purpose of deflecting you."

The judge said the victim was in "sheer terror" during the "horrific" attack and added: "Frankly, I and other people in this court room can only imagine the very serious trauma she suffered that night at your hands.

"The one place where a person is entitled to feel absolutely safe is in their own home, in their own bed.

"You violated that safety in the most wicked way that night."

Less than a month after receiving the jail term, Johnson's legal team took his case back to court in a bid to get the term reduced.

His barrister Alec Burns told the court Johnson had been given 25 per cent credit for pleading guilty but ought to have been entitled the maximum, 30 per cent reduction, as he admitted his guilt as soon as he was found fit to do so.

Johnson, who appeared at the hearing via video link to prison, had been psychiatrically assessed before he admitted his guilt.

Mr Burns told the judge: "It is our submission he pleaded guilty at the first opportunity."

After considering the history of the case, Judge Earl accepted Johnson should receive a further five per cent reduction.

The judge said Johnson's jail term will now be 13 years and four months.

Judge Earl told the court: "In the circumstances, this is a man who is entitled to his credit.

"He pleaded guilty at the first opportunity available."

The court heard the victim had been asleep in bed in the hours of the morning last summer when Johnson broke into her home.

Mr Fish said: "She was subjected to an ordeal which can properly be described as terrifying.

"She heard a noise at her bedroom door. She then saw that there was a man stood at the door of her bedroom."

The victim, who eventually managed to run from her home, said in an impact statement: "I was alone in my home and woke up in my bed to find a large built, male stranger standing in my bedroom.

"It is the stuff nightmares are made of."

The woman said her fear that night was "indescribable" and that her home no longer feels like the "safe haven" that it used to.

She added: "This attack has changed my life."

Alec Burns said at the previous hearing Johnson, a "family man" with children, had taken "a lot of drugs and alcohol" and has thought about what he did every day since.

Mr Burns added: "When discussing it earlier he was crying, he really is remorseful.

"It is a burglary that went wrong."