A shipyard worker was jailed for three years yesterday for sexually abusing a girl 20 years ago.

Brian James Lynch, 62, was also ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life when he was sentenced at Teesside Crown Court.

David Crook, prosecuting, said that the victim, now in her 30s, went to the police last year and Lynch, of Skirlow Road, Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, immediately admitted it, saying that he was deeply sorry.

The woman told police that she still suffered mood swings, and that she finally confided in a friend last June.

Lynch's family were standing by him, but his friends were beginning to desert him, said Dan Cordey defending.

He said Lynch was the main carer for his sick wife, but social services had organised care while he was in prison.

Lynch gave no reason for the offences, between 1980 and 1985, and there had been no further offending.

A pre-sentence report said that the risk of his re-offending was low.

Judge John Walford said: "Unsurprisingly, it has had the most profound effect on her. It's not difficult to imagine the torment that she must have been going through.

"Since she has been an adult it has had an adverse effect on relationships she has tried to form with others. There has to be a custodial sentence of some length to mark the seriousness and the public horror of that."

Lynch, who worked in shipyards in Holland and France, admitted five specimen charges of indecent assault.