A former Jehovah’s Witness who was jailed after having consensual sex with a schoolgirl will soon walk free after winning an appeal against his sentence.
Paul Atkin, now 33, of East Moffat Street, South Shields, admitted having sex with the 15-year-old when he was in his early 20s.
Atkin was jailed for five years when he appeared at Newcastle Crown Court in February.
But yesterday, his sentence was cut to a year, and having served half of that, he could be free within days.
Atkin denied rape, and the charge against him was dropped when he appeared at Newcastle Crown Court.
But he was jailed and ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for the rest of his life after pleading guilty to sexual activity with a child.
Now, he will soon be free after top judges in London slashed his sentence to a year. The sexual offences prevention order was also quashed.
The Court of Appeal heard the sex took place at Atkin’s flat in 2005.
A complaint was not made until some years later, when Atkin was arrested and charged.
During the case in Newcastle, the court was told elders at The Kingdom Hall, in Tyne Dock, South Shields - where he had been a Jehovah Witness - had refused to co-operate with police over the allegation.
Atkin had been disfellowshipped by the elders after the claim had been made, but when the police investigation was later launched they refused to help detectives.
Yesterday, at the Court of Appeal his legal team argued his sentence was too long because the crown court judge had punished him on the wrong basis.
The court heard that, in his sentencing remarks in February, the judge had described the case as aggravated by “breach of trust”. and he had increased the sentence because of the age gap between Atkin and the girl.
But Mr Justice Edis, sitting with Lord Justice Davis and Mr Justice Picken, said the judge had been wrong.
Mr Justice Edis said: “It was simply not open to the judge to conclude that, on the facts of the case before him, the aggravating feature of abuse of trust was present.
“Although the disparity in age is not unimportant, it doesn’t have the sufficient significance as to have the result that the judge gave it.
“An appropriate sentence in this case is one of 12 months’ imprisonment.”
Due to Atkin only having to serve half his sentence in prison before being released on licence, the decision means he will walk free imminently, if not immediately.