A FORMER lifeboat volunteer who confessed to child sex crimes when he was quizzed three decades ago is finally behind bars.

Andrew Stonehouse, who left the service around a decade ago, was questioned when the allegations were first made in the 1990s and the Redcar man admitted what his accuser said.

Yet, it took police several months to speak to the girl again - by which time she did not want to go ahead with the complaint.

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It was not until last year that the husband of the victim raised the matter again with the authorities.

Stonehouse owned up once more, and admitted six charges of indecent assault and two of indecency with a child when in court. The 56-year-old hospital maintenance man was jailed for four-and-a-half years at Teesside Crown Court.

His barrister said Stonehouse was offered, and took up, psychological counselling when he was not prosecuted in the 1990s.

"The notes from those sessions were obtained and it is clear he made admissions at that time," said Ian Mullarkey, mitigating.

"Seemingly, because of the lack of willingness of the complainant to proceed, it didn't go ahead. It was not prosecuted.

"There is nothing more he could have done at that stage, because the police decided not to proceed with matters.

"It is an unusual situation where he admitted his guilt all those years ago. He repeated those admissions when confronted last year."

Judge Deborah Sherwin said a "particularly unpleasant" aspect was that Stonehouse blamed the girl for instigating the encounters.

The victim was struggling to cope with what had happened to her, and - through her husband - went to the police in May last year.

In a statement, she said: "I felt confused and dirty when I was younger, and I remember asking people the best way to kill yourself. I have been left with trust issues, and I find it difficult to trust people are what they seem, and I don't want these insecurities to rub off on my children.

"The abuse has had an affect on my marriage as I build up walls, and this makes my husband feel frustrated. I feel like I have let myself down by not reporting things earlier, and I have a massive guilt thing about it."