A BOY of 12 who raped his teacher and stole her car has been ordered to be detained indefinitely.

A judge at Teesside Crown Court said the youngster - described as a danger to the public - should be released when he is no longer considered a risk.

The court heard how the boy, who drank and smoked at the age of three and was abused by his mother, had ruined the life of the young teacher.

Last night, the sentence was welcomed by detectives and the victim, who was in court with her husband yesterday to see her attacker locked up.

They said they were pleased with the judge's order, and relieved the boy would be unable to harm anyone while being held in a local authority secure unit.

The court was told how the schoolboy - one of Britain's youngest convicted rapists - attacked the woman as she sat next to him during a one-to-one teaching session, in County Durham, last November.

Afterwards, he stole her car and drove it at speeds of up to 100mph to Tyneside before dumping it when he had a minor accident.

He was arrested seven hours after the attack was reported, in Gateshead, but told police: "I don't know anything about that, but I did take the silver car."

The boy, who is now 13 but cannot be identified, refused to answer questions when interviewed, but was linked to the crime by the victim's blood on his underwear.

The youngster, who police described as powerfully-built, admitted rape and the theft of the teacher's car at an earlier hearing, on November 29.

Yesterday, the boy, who lived in Darlington, sat slumped in his chair with his arms folded throughout an hour-long hearing, staring straight ahead at the judge, Mr Justice Grigson.

His victim sat behind a screen in the public gallery and barely took her eyes off her attacker throughout the proceedings.

Sentencing the boy, the judge said: "You attacked a young woman, a young woman who had done you no harm and whose only intention was to help you overcome your particular problems.

"She was a young woman who had her whole life ahead of her."

Mr Justice Grigson said he was prescribed by law to set a minimum sentence the defendant should serve before being considered for parole.

He told the boy that he must serve at least 21 months detention, but warned him it was likely he would serve much longer.

"You have admitted a very serious offence," the judge said. "The problems you have are not of your own making but it is plain that, until these problems are dealt with, you are very likely to commit further offences, and further offences as serious as this."

The boy's barrister, John Evans, told the court: "This is a still young man who is able to acknowledge his feelings of horror at that which he did that day.

"Obviously this is, if it is not a unique case, certainly a very unusual case, and I submit it is properly described as a tragic case."

Mr Justice Grigson refused to grant an application from the Press to lift an order banning the identification of the rapist.

Detective Sergeant Jim Cunningham, who led the investigation, said last night: "The sentence is a great relief both to the victim and to us in relation to public safety, because, as the judge indicated, he would pose a significant danger to the public if he were to be released."