A MAN has been jailed for a sex attack which happened in South Tyneside almost two decades ago.
Derek Thomas sexually assaulted a schoolgirl during a visit to the borough from his home in Yorkshire in the 1990s.
The 47-year-old denied two charges of indecent assault and one of indecency with a child during a trial at Newcastle Crown Court.
Jurors found him guilty of all three charges and Judge John Miliford QC yesterday sentenced him to 21 months behind bars.
Thomas’s denials meant his victim had to re-live her ordeal from the witness box in front of the jury.
Judge John Milford told Thomas: “You did not admit the offence, you denied it at trial, with the result she had to give evidence, which clearly she found a distressing experience.
“She was overcome with emotion when she finally left the witness box.”
“I am satisfied this has made an impact upon her.
“No sentence other than a custodial sentence can be justified.”
The court heard at the time the sex attack was carried out, Thomas had been in a lot of trouble with the police, and had served a 10-year prison sentence for arson, but has no convictions since 1998.
Richard Herrmann, defending, handed in references to Thomas’s good character.
Thomas was accompanied at court by supporters, who watched from the public gallery as he was given the jail term.
Judge John Milford told Thomas: “You had an appalling record and you were subject to a community sentence at the time of this offence.
“You have, subsequent to that, turned your life around.”
Thomas, of Bayfield Close, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, had denied the offences throughout.
He has a total of 46 previous convictions, mostly for offences of dishonesty.
Thomas showed no emotion as he was led away.