A 69-YEAR-OLD man from County Durham is facing 20 years in prison after being found guilty of a string of sexual offences carried out against a girl over eight years.

John Harrison, from St John's Chapel, in Weardale, had denied 16 charges of sexual assault, assault by penetration and rape.

But the pensioner, who was branded a liar by Judge Christopher Prince, was found guilty on August 12, following a six day trial.

Durham Crown Court, where Harrison was jailed on Friday, heard the abuse had been carried out over a number of years, starting when his victim was aged 14 and continued until she was 22 and had escalated from kissing to touching her and then to rape.

In a victim impact statement, which was read to the court, she said the abuse and subsequent police investigation and trial had had an impact on her relationships, friendships, job, finances and mental health and had left her feeling isolated because she was not allowed to have friends.

She added: "I hope John Harrison finally sees the enormous impact of what he has done to me, not just then but now.

"I don't know what the future holds but I hope I can move on knowing John Harrison has been found guilty."

She added that she still suffers from a nightmares as a result of the abuse and had found the trial process "traumatic", describing giving evidence as like having to relive the experience.

She said: "I just want to have a normal life but it's hard."

The court heard Harrison had been "controlling" and had told his victim that no-one would believe her if she told anyone what had happened.

The woman confronted Harrison about his behaviour in July 2017, at which time he told her he was shocked because he said he had believed the sexual activity was consensual.

Chris Baker, mitigating, said Harrison had no previous convictions and would be vulnerable in prison as a result of his age and health problems, which include him having suffered a stroke a number of years ago.

He added: "Mr Harrison knows that the sentence which will be imposes will be a very lengthy sentence and in all likelihood will last the rest of his years."

Judge Christopher Prince called Harrison a liar while praising the courage and integrity of his victim.

Handing him a 20-year sentence, Judge Prince said ;"You lied and lied and lied and lied again.

"You accused her of lying time and time again but she told the truth and you told lies.

"Having had the opportunity to watch you through the trial I have no doubt you are a powerful and overpowering man when it comes to manipulating other people."

He added: "The offences have had a terrible impact on all aspects of her life."

Harrison, of Northorpe Road, in St John's Chapel, was also made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order and will be put on the sex offenders' register.