A TEENAGER has walked free from court despite admitting a sickening sex attack on a toddler.
The youth was spared juvenile detention by a district judge as he feared he would be vulnerable to abuse in custody.
And there was concern he would not get the treatment he needs to stop him targeting other youngsters.
His victim was just three years old when the teenager, from South Tyneside, assaulted her.
Sunderland Magistrates’ Court heard that the assault came to light after the toddler told her mother what had happened.
The case had previously been sent to Newcastle Crown Court but was remitted back to the youth court for sentencing.
The teenager had pleaded guilty to causing or inciting a girl under the age of 13 to engage in sexual activity.
Paul Anderson, prosecuting, said that the youth’s crime had had a devastating effect on their family.
A consultant paediatrician examined the girl and confirmed there was internal trauma, including bruising and reddening.
The court heard that the teenager has no previous convictions apart from cautions.
David Hatfield, defending, asked for his client not to be sent to a young offenders’ institution and, instead, to be given support by a youth offending team.
He said: “It would be naive to suggest that co-prisoners at Wetherby would not find out the nature of the offence. To send him there for 12 months would be a very harsh punishment for someone who doesn’t have any previous convictions.
“Of course, this is a serious and nasty offence and rightly an offence that crosses the custody threshold.”
District judge Roger Elsey told the teenager: “This was a vile offence, and it has two aggravating factors.
“The first and most obvious is the disparity between your age and the age of your victim. She was a child that you should have been protecting rather than abusing.
“The second is the devastating effect this has had on your victim and her mother. She says the allegations have completely ruined her life.”
The judge said the impact of the offences on the whole family would be lifelong.
He added: “Your actions have created a number of victims, and this offence is so serious it amply justifies an immediate custodial sentence, and I don’t think a detention and training order could be argued with.
“The only reason I am not imposing an immediate custodial sentence is that the intensive therapeutic work which is necessary to prevent you harming further victims would not carried out. It has to be carried out in the community.
“I am very confident that the mother of your victim will think the sentence I impose is hugely inadequate, but I impose it to prevent further victims from harm from you.”
The teenager was given a 12-month referral order.
He will be supervised for 15 hours a week for the first month, then 10 hours a week the month after.
The judge added: “You will enter into work to address your sexual offending. You will have to admit to yourself what you did because if you don’t, the work would be unsuccessful and the risk of reoffending would remain high.”
The judge also made a sexual harm prevention order for three years, barring the teenager from having contact with anyone under the age of 16 unless a responsible adult aware of his conviction is present.
He will also have to notify police of any changes to his address.
Judge Elsey added: “If you breach any of these conditions, you will go into custody because that is the only alternative.”