A COUNTY Durham paedophile who sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl and then plied her and two younger siblings with cannabis has been jailed for more than 10 years.

Dale Edwards, 29, pleaded guilty to three counts of cruelty to children and one of sexually assaulting a child under the age of 13, after a jury had been sworn in at Durham Crown Court.

Passing sentence Recorder Thomas Moran said: “You engaged in what can only be described as extraordinary behaviour by taking the children to the park – the three of them – and making them consume cannabis.

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“It was either by smoking or eating it in the case of the older two children or blowing it in the face of the youngest child.

“This happened every other day over a period of a few weeks. You reinforced what you were asking them to do by threatening to take their Xboxes away if they didn’t do it.”

Edwards, of Alexandra Terrace, Wheatley Hill, County Durham, initially denied sexually assaulting the child but pleaded guilty to the charge two days into his trial.

The victim was examined and found to have chlaymidia – a sexually transmitted disease, which "significantly added to the distress of her and her family".

The mother described how, alerted by other children, she found the girl had appeared to be trying to harm herself at one point by tying a scarf around her neck. 

The girl said she did it because she "wanted it to end". 

Chris Baker, defending, said part from two relatively minor matters, Edwards had avoided acting in a criminal way since 2011.

He said Edwards had some mental health issues and apologises to the complainants.

Edwards of Alexandra Terrace, Wheatley Hill, County Durham, was jailed for 10 years and six months.

He was given extended licence period of 12 months. He will be on the sex offenders' register for life and was made subject of an indefinite sexual harm prevention order.

The judge also imposed an indefinite restraining order.

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