A PERVERT who abused a girl more than 30 years ago is behind bars after his victim plucked up the courage to tell police of her ordeal.

Justice finally caught up with Middlesbrough man Ian Donnelly, now 55, when he was jailed for more than eight years at Teesside Crown Court yesterday.

Bespectacled Donnelly was also ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

The court heard how Donnelly's victim finally went to police last year after suffering years of torment over his depraved acts when she was aged just eight.

Judge Howard Crowson was told that Donnelly got away with the abuse at the time because the girl was too young to understand what was happening to her.

The former bakery worker, who was convicted after a four-day trial in July, was said to have systematically sexually assaulted the child.

Prosecutor Robin Turton told the court that the abuse affected her health as she grew older because she could never escape from the horrific memories.

He said: "There were a multitude of offences... there was a degree of vulnerability and it has had an effect on her life and her relationships."

Mr Turton told Judge Crowson: "She was so young that she did not understand what was happening to her and it meant that it could continue."

Donnelly, who has a young son, was barred from his home by the authorities after his arrest, and he spent eight months sleeping in his car on an industrial estate.

Jonathon Walker, mitigating, told the court that Donnelly was his ill wife's carer, and she would suffer during the years he will spend behind bars.

Mr Walker said that Donnelly committed the offences when he was an immature man in his 20s, and he was effectively of previous good character.

He added: "When the police asked him in interview if he had sexually assaulted this girl, his answer was 'yes', and he went on to make a number of admissions.

"But the admissions did not go as far as the incidents that he was convicted of."

The judge said that the woman had lived with her torment for 30 years until she found the burden too great and she announced in January last year that she was going to the police to report what had happened to her when she was a young girl.

Judge Crowson told Donnelly: "At the plea and case management hearing you admitted three allegations but that was an attempt to undermine and distort what had happened.

"I am of the view that the repeated nature of your offending aggravated the effect on this girl."

The judge said that he had letters from Donnelly's family making it clear that he was regarded by them as a loving father.

Donnelly, of Borough Road, Middlesbrough, was jailed for eight-and-a-half years after he was found guilty of five specimen offences of indecent assault and one of indecency with a child.