A PAEDOPHILE who sexually abused an eight-year-old girl until she turned 12 has been jailed for three years.

Francis Hardie, from Haddington, pleaded guilty to repeatedly using lewd, indecent and libidinous behaviour towards the youngster between 1984 and 1988.

The “violent drunk” started by simulating sex with her and progressed to worse abuse until, for no apparent reason, he stopped when she started going to secondary school.

The girl, now an adult in her 40s, said in a victim impact statement that she continued to suffer from the mental impact of his abuse to this day.

Livingston Sheriff Court was told that Hardie, 70, satisfied his perverted sexual cravings when the victim was in his care at his then homes in Broxburn and Blackburn, West Lothian.

The girl’s mother trusted Hardie to look after her daughter and two other children while she was dealing with marriage difficulties and separation from the children’s father.

Ignorant of what Hardie had been doing to her daughter, she continued to allow her to visit him after she won a battle awarding her care of her children.

She only learned how he had used her daughter to satisfy his depraved lust when the girl blurted out the shocking revelations to her when she turned 14 – two years after the abuse had stopped.

The furious mum confronted Hardie, who told her he would hand himself into police.

However, when officers interviewed him, he initially denied sexually abusing the girl and claimed there had been no confrontation.

Mary Moultrie, defending, stressed that Hardie had pleaded guilty to the charges the first time the case called in court, avoiding his victim having to give evidence.

She said: “He doesn’t seek to shirk his responsibilities. He has very real remorse and shame at how he has conducted himself.

“Alcohol abuse was a feature at the time. He may not recall it, which is reflected in the background reports, in part through the passage of time and in part through alcohol abuse.

“However, on a daily basis he has considered his actions and the significance of the impact on the complainer.

“He isn’t a man who has sought to belittle the seriousness of the charges and blame the complainer.”

She said that Hardie, who now has health problems, had been assessed as being at low risk of re-offending.

She added: “He took action in changing his lifestyle and isolating himself from personal and social relationships.

“Most importantly there has been no further offending. And he’s assessed as being at low risk of further offending.”

Hardie, of Edward Court, Haddington, was sentenced to three years' imprisonment, reduced from four years because of his early guilty pleas.

Sheriff Kenneth Maciver told him he had admitted repeated and serious sexual abuse of the young girl over a four-year period when she was aged seven or eight and when she was 11 or 12.

He said: “It had a significant effect on her at the time which must have been apparent to you, and when it ultimately ended as she reached the age of around 12 and went to high school the effects on her did not end and have continued.

“I’ve been advised in terms of the victim impact statement that she has continued to suffer and will continue to suffer as a consequence of your actions and sexual abuse.

“You now obviously are a much older man but at the time you had a previous conviction for a serious sexual assault – an assault with intent to rape – and you had other convictions and you’d experienced a custodial sentence.

“It’s fair to say that you’re a drunk and violent man in addition to being a sexual abuser, and I say that because you have to understand that courts dealing with historic sexual abuse have to deal with them as if those offences had happened very recently.

“A custodial sentence can’t be avoided in your case. There is no other sentence which is appropriate having regard to the gravity of the offence, and the passage of time doesn’t alter that.”

The sheriff told Hardie his name would remain on the sex offenders’ register indefinitely.

He highlighted that the guilty plea had meant Hardie’s victim had not needed to suffer the further ordeal of giving evidence before a jury.

He added: “This matter for her is at an end because you have accepted your guilt. So there’s no appeal and she can move on and make such recovery as she can.”