A NATIONAL children's charity hopes more youngsters will speak up after a "sickening" paedophile was sent to jail.

Antonio Lawrie will spend three years in prison after he was resentenced for a string of sexual attacks on a seven-year-old girl at the Court of Appeal.

The 22-year-old had initially been given a two-year suspended sentence for his crimes when he appeared at Southampton Crown Court earlier this year.

But after his case was taken to London by the CPS, judges agreed to extend his sentence to a term of imprisonment.

Following the hearing, the NSPCC said: "Lawrie repeatedly subjected this young victim to sickening levels of sexual abuse.

"We hope this case shows others who might be suffering in silence that they can speak up and they will be listened to."

After his trial at Southampton Crown Court, a top judge said Lawrie should not be sent to prison as he would be “taken advantage of” inside.

However, the Crown Prosecution Service launched an appeal, describing the original sentence of two years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, as “unduly lenient”.

Now Lawrie faces three years behind bars following the hearing in London.

The solicitor general, Robert Buckland QC MP, referred Lawrie's sentence to the court of appeal.

He said: “Lawrie carried out a campaign of sexual assault against a young girl, and I hope that she will take some comfort from the increased sentence. Lawrie continues to pose a threat to other children, and it is therefore important that he serves an immediate custodial sentence.”

The NSPCC believe the Government should deliver on its promise to extend position of trust laws, which would make it illegal for adults in certain professions to have sex with 16 and 17 year olds in their care, just like teachers and social workers.

NSPCC’s Trust to Lead campaign calls on Government to extend these laws to sports coaches and other youth leaders, to prevent adults from grooming children in their care, then initiating sex as soon as they turn 16.


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e: clive.hammond@dailyecho.co.uk