A FORMER painter and decorator for a children's charity who subjected a young girl to “a campaign of sexual abuse” has been given a 16 year prison sentence.

Neil Bennett, 51, of Forest Edge, Buckhurst Hill, was told he had no understanding of the harm he had caused his young victim, now in her 20s, who he had repeatedly raped and sexually abused over a period of seven years in the 1990s.

In sentencing Bennett Judge Wendy Joseph QC told him: “Seven years of abuse began to take their toll until she was terribly affected. She was clearly on the edge of a complete breakdown.

"She was failing at school and was attempting to kill herself with overdoses. She couldn't bring herself to tell anyone in authority.

“Her suicide attempts reached such a pitch she was left at a psychiatric unit. It was there, after a final serious suicide attempt, that she disclosed the source of why she was trying to kill herself- your behaviour to her.”

Snaresbrook Crown Court heard that Bennett still maintained his innocence despite being found guilty of nine charges relating to child sex abuse in July this year.

Judge Joseph said: “You have no understanding of the harm you have done or the pain you have caused her. Looking at the gravity of the offences I have come to the conclusion these are very serious offences indeed.”

During the period of his offences, Bennett was employed in a workshop at the headquarters of Barnado's, in Barkingside, although there has never been any suggestion he abused children there.

His defence barrister David Owen-Jones said: “I suppose he's worked for Dr Barnados, there may be occasions when he came into contact with children, and also in the Boys' Brigade but there's been no whisper of impropriety there.

“He's a man who has been deeply respected. He's made a positive contribution to his church, and is respected for his involvement in the church.”

Bennett was sentenced to 16 years' imprisonment for four counts of indecent assault, two of rape, one of attempted rape, and two of indecency with a child.

He was ordered to be placed on the sex offenders' register for life, and disqualified from working with children.