A MAN has been jailed for 15 years after being found guilty of child cruelty and indecently assaulting a child.

Shane Peeke, of Murrayfield Way, Darlington, was sentenced via videolink at Teesside Crown Court after the judge heard how he beat the child, locked the victim in a box and also committed an indecent assault.

The 56-year-old had been found guilty of six counts of indecent assault, two counts of indecent assault on another child, and one count of child cruelty, at an earlier trial.

Despite this he wrote a letter to Judge Howard Crowson protesting his innocence.

An impact statement from his victim told how their life had changed forever and that they were unable to forget what Peeke had done.

The victim described it as “the worst thing to ever happen” to them.

“He abused me, a vulnerable child who couldn’t speak out,” the statement said.

Judge Crowson said to Peeke: “I have read your letter in which you continue to maintain your innocence.

"On the contrary, I have heard the effect your behaviour had on [the victim].

“[The child] was beaten and imprisoned in a box. [The child] thought they was going to die in a box. It was prolonged cruelty.

“But the primary harm was caused by the sexual offending. This was serious in itself.

Judge Crowson added: “I am satisfied also that you engineered those opportunities and did this at a time you were sure you would not be discovered.”

The judge imposed a sexual harm prevention order stopping Peeke from having unsupervised contact with children for the rest of his life.

He also imposed a restraining order banning him from going within a certain distance of his victim, while sentencing him to a total of 15 years behind bars.