A SERIOUS case review is being launched into how a Dursley rapist was able to prey upon vulnerable women.

Care worker Colin Stokes, 48, was handed a 20-year sentence at Gloucester Crown Court last Thursday.

He had admitted raping three vulnerable women aged 32, 50 and 52 – all of whom have severe physical and mental disabilities – between January 2012 and April 2013. A 14-year jail term will be followed by a further six years on licence.

Gloucestershire Police last week thanked everyone involved in bringing the sentencing about, especially the whistleblower who first reported the abuse.

"It took great courage but it brought to light one of the worst examples of the abuse of some of the most vulnerable people in our society," said a police spokesman. "Stokes is now where he belongs and I know everyone is working to make sure these women have a safe future."

But it had emerged that Stokes had previously been arrested for sexual offences six years earlier.

Police arrested and questioned Stokes over serious sexual assault allegations in 2007, but he was never charged and continued to work at the same home.

The mother of Stokes’ 32-year-old victim, who is seriously mentally and physically handicapped, told the Gazette she was horrified to learn of the previous allegations.

“We should have been told,” she said. “My daughter would never have gone near the place if we’d have known. There’s no smoke without fire. He just shouldn’t have been there.”

Gloucestershire Police said a full and thorough investigation was carried out in 2007 but after referral the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) didn’t believe the evidence was strong enough to proceed.

Rachael Scott, head of the CPS South West Rape and Serious Sexual Offence unit, said when Stokes denied an allegation of sexual assault in 2007 it was one person’s word against another.

She said: “The stance the CPS takes today is fundamentally different to that in 2007. We no longer see the lack of corroboration as a bar to bringing a case to court.

“Furthermore in this case the police immediately recognised the need to obtain intermediaries to elicit the best evidence from the complainants.

“The CPS recognises that vulnerable adults and children are targeted by sex offenders because of their vulnerability, so we ensure every effort is made to ascertain the evidence in order that a case can meet The Code test and proceed to charge.”

Gloucestershire County Council cancelled its contract with the care provider at the home following the discovery of Stokes’ 2013 abuse and has now commissioned a serious case review.

Margaret Willcox, director of adult services, said: “We are absolutely appalled at the crimes that have been committed.

“The county council was aware of a police investigation in 2007, but no charges were brought and the case was closed.

“However, we have now asked the Safeguarding Adults Board to carry out a serious case review to understand exactly what happened in the past and to check everything is being done to keep our vulnerable people safe.”