A man is starting a ten-year prison sentence after being convicted of sexually assaulting a girl more than 30 years ago, offences over which he is still said to remain in denial.

John Reay, now 56, was found guilty of three counts of indecent assault following a three-day trial at Durham Crown Court in December.

Each of the offences date back to when the defendant was in his early 20s, but only came to light when a complaint was made to police in recent years.

The case came before Durham Crown Court in June 2022 when the defendant, of Beamish View, Birtley, denied the three counts.

The Northern Echo:

Various trial dates were unable to be met and the case only went ahead on December 18, last year, with majority guilty verdicts returned on all three counts on December 21.

The case came back before the court to be sentenced yesterday (Monday February 26).

Lee Fish, prosecuting, told the hearing that the Crown recognises that the maximum sentence for each offence at the time they were committed was ten years.

He then read from the impact statement of the victim, prepared recently for the hearing, in which she said the defendant’s actions have, “greatly affected my life”.

She said she has had flashbacks every day and she has suffered with health issues, as well as “low self-esteem, self-confidence and self-belief”.

The victim stated that the defendant, “took advantage of my vulnerabilities”, and she said having to relive the events for the court process had, “a huge impact” on her mental health.

But she added that she has found “strength and courage” in the wake of the outcome.

The Northern Echo:

The trial judge, Recorder Gurdial Singh, told defence counsel, David Callan, that he had read a probation background report prepared for the hearing.

Mr Callan said: “You will see from the report he does accept the verdicts of the jury, but he doesn’t agree with them.

“He hasn’t reached that stage, yet.

“He was in his early 20s when they (the offences) occurred and he was not only immature, but he was a particularly immature 20-year-old.

“He’s now 56 and in the last 35 years there have been no convictions or cautions for any sexual offences at all.”

Mr Callan said the defendant’s only convictions were “old offences” and not at all relevant.

Recorder Singh said he does not accept that the defendant was “immature” when the offending took place.

He told Reay: “You were working and... in various relationships.

“There was a substantial age difference between you and the complainant.

“When the allegations came to light you were interviewed and denied them.

“That was your right and, at the trial, you maintained those denials and you fall to be sentenced now.

“You stood trial and were convicted and, so, there’s no evidence of remorse on your behalf.

“You continue to deny your guilt.”

He imposed sentences of six years on count one and three years concurrently on count two, but to run consecutively with four years for count three, making a total ten-year jail term.

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Recorder Singh told Reay he would serve two-thirds of the ten years before his case is referred to the Parole Board for consideration for release.

Upon his release, as an offender “of particular concern”, he will be subject to an extra year on licence.

Although the Recorder said he did not feel a Sexual Harm Prevention Order was necessary, the defendant will be subject to lifetime notification requirements as a sex offender