A man with an “embedded sexual interest” in female children has been jailed for 13 years for offences involving two girls, committed several years apart.

Keith Lynch was said to have taken, “each and every opportunity” to abuse the girls, while taking and storing covertly filmed photographs of the second victim to add to a collection of indecent images of children found upon his arrest.

A second man who also took part in sexual activity with one of the girls, despite the disparity in their ages, has also received a custodial sentence.

Mark Smith is starting a two-year prison term, imposed as part of the same sentencing hearing as Lynch, at Durham Crown Court today (Tuesday March 7).

Read more: Sex offender spoke to underage girls and swapped numbers at Durham bus stop

Following allegations that arose in August 2021, both men were arrested and on September 2, last year, appeared at the court, where they denied a combined total of 18 counts between them.

A trial date was fixed for January this year, but the court was informed of Smith’s intention to change his pleas to guilty to three of the six charges against him, in November.

The now 38-year-old defendant, of Garesfield Gardens, Burnopfield, duly admitted three counts of sexual activity with a child and his sentencing hearing was adjourned pending the outcome of the trial involving his co-accused.

Lynch, 47, of no fixed address, but formerly said to be of Consett, was found guilty, on the fourth day of his trial, on February 2, of all 12 offences he denied.

These were four counts of indecent or sexual assault, three of making indecent photos of a child, two each of taking indecent photos of a child and inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, plus one of voyeurism.

The sentencing hearing heard the impact statements of both victims.

One said she was struggling with her emotions and found every day a challenge.

She said she felt taken advantage of when she was at a young age and did not really know what was happening to her, but just felt it was wrong.

The victim added said she still feels uncomfortable talking about what happened to her, and since the allegations arose she has distanced life-long friends.

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She also added that she was angry that because Lynch denied the offences ever took place, she was made out to be a liar.

The other victim said she was confused when the offences took place, but the defendant told her at the time if she said anything, “no-one would believe her”, and she felt she, “was the problem.”

Brian Mark, for Lynch, who has no previous cautions or convictions, said his client was convicted on the jury’s verdict of, “serious offences, but not the most serious”, but he accepts he must be punished.

Susan Hirst, for Smith, said he, too, was of previous good character, and his offending took place over a, “relatively short period”, when he was a much younger man, and he has not transgressed in any way since.

Miss Hirst said her client is not attracted to young girls and considers the offending as, “a one off”, for which he is ashamed and the fact he was found out, “brought him to his senses.”

Judge Jo Kidd said the victims, by their age, could be considered “vulnerable”.

She told Lynch: “I take the view your sexual interest in young female children has been embedded and you have taken each and every opportunity you have had to groom them and sexually abuse them (the victims).”

Judge Kidd said during the course of his trial, Lynch tried to portray one of his victims as, “a disturbed attention-seeking young woman with a fixation on sexual matters”.

But she told Lynch: “She was not and is not. She is the victim of your depravity.”

She told Smith that there was an element of grooming in his case and his offending only ended because he was, “found out.”

Imposing the sentence on Lynch, the judge said he must serve at least two-thirds of the 13 years, before being eligible for release on licence.

Judge Kidd also made him subject to the terms of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) and registration as a sex offender, both indefinitely.

Read next:

               Man, 20, jailed over sexual meeting with girl in County Durham

               Sex offender's abuse of young girls spanned three decades

               Aycliffe man, 65, reacted angrily when confronted about sex offences

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He was also made subject of a ten-year restraining order applying to both of his victims.

Apart from the two-year prison sentence imposed on Smith, he was also made subject of a SHPO and sex offender registration, plus the restraining order, all for ten years.

Formal not guilty verdicts were recorded for the three offences he still denied.