A ‘warped’ rapist who drugged men he met on the gay hook-up app Grindr has been jailed for 23 years.
Standing in the dock Sam Ashley, 30, was close to tears as the term was handed down by a judge at Portsmouth Crown Court today.
Police have welcomed the sentence, branding Ashley, who used GHB and diazepam to drug his victims, as ‘dangerous, calculating and manipulative’.
Insurance worker Ashley, who told some of his victims he had terminal colon cancer in an effort to win their sympathy, was last month convicted of four rapes, two attempted rapes, and four charges of administering a substance with intent.
Prosecutor Robert Bryan said that Ashley’s administering of the date-rape drug GHB to a man with HIV ‘could have killed’ him because of the combination with the victim’s medicine.
Samuel Ashley is a dangerous, calculating and manipulative individual who committed some of the most serious offences against multiple victimsJudge David Melville QC
Ashley had laced one victim’s cup of tea with a drug, gave diazepam to another victim and even drove another to Ashley’s then-home in North End in order to rape him.
He has now been banned from using the Grindr app and from forming a sexual relationship without telling police under the terms of a sexual harm prevention order.
Ashley, of Lynton Gardens, Fareham, appeared in court from the cells after breaching the bail he was granted after the trial.
Addressing Ashley, judge David Melville QC said: ‘You made every step which was needed, so far as you saw it, in your warped way of thinking in order to overcome their reluctance and allow you to get up close when their barriers were down.
‘There’s a pattern of behaviour here – it’s dangerous in my judgment.
‘There you are, just imagine, you found it possible to get those drugs, you used them when you wanted to on innocent victims, one of whom was already seriously ill.
‘You took serious advantage of them and of course that was repeated on four occasions, all put into effect to make it easy for your by the use of the Grindr website, an easy way to meet those in the gay community.
‘And of course if you met with reluctance you had a wheeze, a final one - you told them you were dying of cancer.’
The judge added: ‘This was calculated behaviour, it was deliberate and awful.’
Ashley was convicted of:
• Drugging and twice raping a university student he met on Grindr to go jogging with.
• Raping, twice trying to rape, and drugging a man with HIV.
• Drugging a man who woke up to find ‘a number of sex toys on the bed’ with Ashley.
• Raping and drugging a man he met for a threesome who had taken what he thought was paracetamol from Ashley for a headache.
Speaking outside court, Detective Inspector James Stewart, from Hampshire police, said: ‘Samuel Ashley is a dangerous, calculating and manipulative individual who committed some of the most serious offences against multiple victims.
‘Today he has been jailed for a significant period of time and the community is a safer place.’
A trial heard Ashley had drugged and raped men he met on Grindr over six months in 2016. He also drugged another man earlier that year.
William Mousley QC, for Ashley, said ‘triggers’ for Ashley’s offending included the break-up of his civil partnership, workplace bullying, an anxiety diagnosis, and ‘undoubtedly significant events in Sam Ashley’s childhood which had never been confronted’.
Mr Mousley said Ashley had now written a letter to police about those matters.
He said: ‘The combination of those various factors and the stresses that they brought may well provide an explanation for why he had behaved in the way he did in that period of six months in 2016.
‘We submit that those combination of factors are unlikely to recur in his life.’
Mr Mousley added: ‘We submit that at the age of 30, while of course he will receive a lengthy term of imprisonment, he is someone who could be rehabilitated.’
He added that ‘at the appropriate time (Ashley should be allowed to) be able to take steps to rebuild the life that has been shattered as a result of his offending’.
Ashley had breathed a sigh of relief as the judge declined to give a life sentence but then was close to tears as the 23-year term was imposed.