A HIV-positive ex-prison guard has been jailed for 22 years for raping a child after the victim bravely spoke up to police.

Martin Richards subjected the schoolgirl to multiple rapes over a two-year period and was brought to justice on Monday (November 6) for his horrific actions.

The 50-year-old paedophile manipulated his victim into keeping quiet but was eventually caught out when she found the courage to confide in her mother, who then contacted police.

An investigation was launched by officers from Northumbria Police’s Safeguarding department and former prison officer Richards was arrested in March this year.

He was charged with a string of offences and remanded in custody, but, desperate to get the case dropped, sent a number of letters to the victim’s family.

The Northern Echo: Martin Richards has been jailed for 22 yearsMartin Richards has been jailed for 22 years (Image: NORTHUMBRIA POLICE)

Richards, of Windsor Terrace, Choppington, later appeared at Newcastle Crown Court where he pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual assault on a child, causing a child to watch a sexual act and perverting the court of justice.

However, he denied rape, sexual assault and causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity but was found guilty by a jury after standing trial.

On Monday, Richards appeared back at the same court where he was jailed for 22 years and must serve two-thirds of his sentence behind bars.

He was also issued with an indefinite Sexual Harm Prevention Order, and Restraining Order and must sign the Sex Offenders’ Register for life.

An impact statement read out in court written by the victim’s mother said: "The impact of the crimes he committed has been profound.

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"Until we could be sure she didn't have HIV she had to take several tablets. She would get so distressed when taking them she would be sick.

"I've struggled to come to terms with what happened. Her confidence is drained and she's particularly nervous around unknown males.

"We are devastated for her and what she's been through. We can only hope she can start to heal and start to trust again. He has stolen so much of her childhood."

Speaking after the sentencing, the officer in charge of the case, Detective Constable Emma Hooker of Northumbria Police’s Safeguarding department said: “This was a horrendous ordeal for the victim and her family, and I am pleased the courts have seen fit to sentence Richards to a lengthy sentence.

“Richards is a dangerous man, he stripped his victim of her childhood innocence and abused her in the most horrific way.

“He is a predator and there’s no place in our communities for someone like him. Instead of admitting all of his vile actions he stood trial, prolonging the proceedings for his victim but eventually the jury saw through the lies.

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“I would like to praise the victim for her bravery because if she hadn’t spoken up and told her mother what had happened, Richards may not be behind bars today.

"I know no sentence will ever take away the trauma he was caused but I hope some closure can be taken and the victim and her family are able to begin moving forward with their lives.

“As a Force, protecting the vulnerable, and ensuring the most serious offenders like Richards are brought to justice are top priorities for us. I would urge anyone who has been a victim, or wants to share information about an offender, to get in touch. We will support you and we will believe you.”