March 2021

Child rapist’s mum and sister showed cops fake Facebook messages to get him off the hook

A child rapist’s mother and sister tried to cover up his crime by showing the police fake Facebook messages which they falsely claimed were the victim saying she had made up the allegations.

Craig Shackleton had been arrested for raping a 12-year-old girl but was protesting his innocence and his family members believed him.

A court heard they then set about perverting the course of justice to try to help undermine the child’s credibility.

The 29-year-old, of Ladykirk Road, Benwell, Newcastle, was convicted of three counts of rape of a child after a trial and has now been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

His mother, Janet Burton, 56, and sister, Samantha Shackleton, 18, were given suspended sentences after pleading guilty to perverting justice.

The victim’s mum said in a statement read to Newcastle Crown Court: “The day I found out, my world fell apart.”

Outlining details of the devastating effect the offending had, the mum added: “The whole nightmare was as a consequence of the actions of Craig Shackleton.

“He has never shown an ounce of sympathy towards my little girl.

“She was so scared about giving evidence during the trial.

“I would like the court to lock him away for life and throw away the key but I accept this is unlikely.”

The sexual offending came to light when the girl’s dad was using his mobile phone and received notifications of Facebook messages meant for his daughter, as she had been logged in on his device.

He saw messages between the girl and Shackleton and noticed kisses at the end of them and that they were telling each other they loved each other.

To his horror, he then saw a message indicating they had been having sex and subsequently discovered Shackleton was a man in his 20s.

The police were involved and this led on to the discovery of other evidence against Shackleton showing he was in a sexual relationship with the girl.

Judge Amanda Rippon sentenced Shackleton to 12 years, plus an additional year on licence and imposed an indefinite restraining order to protect the victim. He will also be on the sex offenders register and subject to a sexual harm prevention order, both indefinitely.

The judge told him: “The victim personal statement makes it heartbreakingly plain in the starkest terms the impact your offending had on her and her family.

“I’ve no doubt the psychological harm you caused is very serious indeed.

“You groomed her before you raped her.

“There is no remorse or responsibility taken yet but you have told professionals you will engage with sex offender treatment.”

The judge said she accepted Shackleton might have thought the victim was 14 or 15, rather than 12.

When the allegations were made against Shackleton, and Burton and Samantha Shackleton found out, they set about trying to help him.

Police were told the Shackleton family were in possession of Facebook messages from the girl in which she appeared to admit she had lied about the allegations.

The faked messages included the victim purportedly saying she made up the allegations because her friends dared her to and that “I know Craig wouldn’t anything like that he’s a canny lad.”

Prosecutors said Burton and Samantha Shackleton provided the messages to the police with the intention of misleading the police into believing that the girl had confessed that her allegations were false, when they were not and she had not.

The prosecution was unable to say who the author of the messages was – whether the two women contrived to create the messages or whether a third party created them and the defendants provided them to the police knowing them to be untrue.

Dealing with the two women, Judge Rippon said: “Janet Burton and Samantha Shackleton, you involved yourselves in trying to undermine the credibility of a child who had alleged Craig Shackleton, your son and brother respectively, had sexual intercourse with her and because she was 12, that was rape.

“Facebook messages were manufactured, purportedly by (the girl) in which she apparently confessed to lying about Craig Shackleton.

“Those messages were brought to the police’s attention by both of you. Your intention was to abort the prosecution and undermine the credibility of (the girl).

“I entirely accept you though he was innocent. He was not, the evidence against him was overwhelming.”

Burton, of Ladykirk Road, Benwell, was sentenced to eight months suspended for 12 months

Samantha Shackleton, of Ladykirk Road, Benwell, got four months suspended for 12 months. Both were also given restraining orders to protect the victim.