A TEENAGER is behind bars for sexually assaulting a child who was forced to relive the ordeal during a trial.
Ryan Softley denied abusing the youngster after his arrest last year but since his conviction last month has confessed.
A judge told the 18-year-old that had he admitted his "terrible" crime it is likely he would not have been locked up.
The unemployed welder, of Salem Avenue, Consett, County Durham, was sent to a young offenders' institution for 12 months.
Judge Peter Armstrong, sitting at Teesside Crown Court, also banned him from having unsupervised contact with under-18s.
He told Softley, who was found guilty of sexual assault: "It was a terrible offence. You have now admitted this to the probation service.
"If you had had the courage and good sense to do that earlier, it may have just been possible to avoid locking you up today."
Softley - described as an immature 17-year-old at the time of the attack - was also ordered to sign on the sex offenders' register for five years.
His barrister, Andrew Finlay, told the court that the teenager had struggled to accept what he had done.
He described the assault as "opportunistic" and said: "Very little, if any, planning or preparation was involved.
"It appears to be somewhat isolated . . . there may well have been some degree of experimentation about it.
"He does seem to have been a very young 18-year-old when he gave his evidence a few weeks ago."
Judge Armstrong told Softley, who had no previous convictions, he had to "consider carefully" the sentence because of his age.
He said: "Whether it was experimentation or curiosity or what may never be determined, but whatever the reason for it, it was for your sexual gratification."