A MAN who sexually assaulted a toddler when he was a teenager has walked free from court on a legal technicality.

John Mason, 51, carried out the crime in the UK in the early 1980s, which today would be classified as rape and carries a maximum life sentence, reports The Sun.

However, at the time the assault happened, the maximum sentence for the crime was just three months in prison, reports the Liverpool Echo.

Mason, a father of five, committed the crime when he was between the ages of 14 and 16 with his young victim being left psychologically scarred as a result and suffering from nightmares and bed-wetting.

Acknowledging Mason's guilty plea, Judge Denis Watson said that if he was imprisoned it would only be for a matter of weeks.

He said such a "ridiculously short" sentence would serve "no real purpose" and instead handed down a three-year community order and ordered Mason to sign on to the Sex Offenders Register for five years.

The judge said: "When dealing with non-recent offences, no sentence can be passed on an offender that is greater than could be passed had you been dealt with at the time."

Liverpool Crown Court heard that Mason confessed to his crime when the victim was a teenager, but that the matter was not taken to the police.

The victim's mother told police Mason was a danger to children in 2010 and he was subject to a further complaint in 2015.

He was interviewed in 2016 and in February this year, but offered no comment when questioned.

The victim told the court that during the assault, Mason took off both their clothes and said: "I'll do it to you and you do it to me."

The victim also went on to suffer from depression and was referred for counselling after telling their GP they were molested as a child.

Nicholas Walker, defending Mason, said his client was "deeply sorry" for his crime and that although "there is only one victim in this case, it is evident from everything the court has read that this single incident in the 1980s still haunts both men."

Judge Watson said while Mason had committed a "grave offence which has had a lasting impact", he believed he was "wracked with remorse".

This story originally appeared in The Sun and has been republished here with permission.

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