A MAN dragged a woman into a vehicle compound and raped her in the cab of a van.

Thomas Stephen Mason, who was said to have found it hard to come to terms with what he did, initially denied raping the woman when arrested and later charged with the offence.

But, having changed his plea on the day of his trial at Durham Crown Court, he was jailed for seven years and two months.

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Shaun Dodds, prosecuting, said the incident took place on February 17, 2013, after both had been with other drinkers at a pub into the early hours.

On leaving with a relative of Mason they were to go to a house party, but on arrival found no-one there, so the victim decided to go home.

Passing the compound, Mason dragged the woman in, and the offence took place in the cab of a Ford Transit van, despite her screams.

When he was arrested next day, Mason claimed she willingly went with him into the compound where they performed consensual sex acts on each other.

The court heard that he also “played down” the full extent of what took place when reports were prepared on him by the Probation Service and a psychiatrist.

Judge Christopher Prince asked his counsel, Katherine Dunn, if Mason stood by what he told the authors of both reports.

But, following consultation with him, Miss Dunn, told the court: “He stands by his ‘guilty’ plea, but not what he told both the Probation Service and the psychiatrist.

“He has now expressed clear remorse.

“He actually told the writer of the pre-sentence report that he was disgusted with himself, on reflection of his actions.

“At the age of 25 he’s found it difficult to come to terms with what he has done.

“He found it impossible to tell his family, but they are now fully aware of it.”

Miss Dunn said when eventually released from prison Mason, of Bridge Street, Tow Law, County Durham, intends to leave the region and has a pledge of a job.

Jailing him, Judge Prince told Mason: “This offence has had a most adverse effect on the victim.

“There was a significant degree force and injury was caused.

“There was also an element of abduction, dragging her into that compound.”

He ordered that Mason must be subject to registration as a sex offender for life.