A refugee who was found guilty of under-age sex with a teenage girl he ran away with was yesterday jailed for 15 months.

Ascan Omanov, 31, was convicted of the offence on March 9 but was cleared of a second charge of child abduction. He now faces deportation.

Trial Judge Gerard Harkins told Omanov that the offence was so serious he had to be jailed.

Despite an application by Omanov's barrister, Mark Styles, not to impose a deportation order, Judge Harkins said it was clear the immigrant knew the girl was under age.

''He arrives in this country using what he now says is a false name and I am quite satisfied, having heard all the evidence, that he knew this girl was a child, being under 16,'' he said. ''The Act is there to protect young girls, sometimes from themselves.''

Omanov, of Wellington Road, Dunston, Gateshead, had denied both charges but Newcastle Crown Court heard that he had admitted to police having sex with the schoolgirl but thought she was 17.

He told the court his real name was Ludim Robert Morega, 22, and that he entered Britain in January or February last year.

Omanov, described by Mr Styles as an illegal immigrant, said he came to Britain from Italy.

Omanov befriended the 15-year-old, who cannot be named, after he was rehomed on Tyneside and he admitted having sex with her in his flat, saying they were in love.

The girl's worried parents found out and threatened to send her to live with relatives in Australia if she did not keep away from him, the court was told.

The pair then ran away to London. After 11 days Omanov was arrested and the court was told they had been sleeping rough in a park.

Omanov was placed on the Sex Offenders' Register for ten years