A SEX offender who repeatedly abused a young girl has been jailed for 14 and a half years.

Richard Patrick Willis, 27, was convicted of six counts of sex offences, including rape, following a trial at Dorchester Crown Court.

The offences took place between August 2009 and January 2014, when his victim was aged as young as five.

Willis, of North Fields, Tarrant Hinton in Blandford, pleaded not guilty to rape of a child under 13, two charges of sexual assault of a child under 13, two charges of causing or enticing a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity and engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child under 13.

The offences only came to light when the victim made a "sexualised comment" to a friend at school, the court heard. 

Rebecca Austin, prosecuting, told the court that Willis had violated the child in "the grossest way possible".

She said victim had spoken to Willis about what was happening and said it "felt weird" but Willis told her what they were doing was "normal".

Representing Willis, Adrian Chaplin told the court that Willis denied the allegations since they were first raised to him and Willis had "no idea" where it had come from. The defence argued the victim's evidence was a fabrication. 

When giving evidence to the jury Willis said he was "devastated" when he was first confronted with them. 

He said: "There are no words that can put something like that into terms."

Willis, who has no previous convictions relating to sexual offences, was originally sentenced to 14 and a half years in November 2014 in relation to the six charges, but following an appeal and new evidence it was quashed and sent for re-trial. 

Speaking directly to Willis, Judge Jonathan Fuller QC, said: "The affect it has had on [the victim] is considerable, who is struggling to cope with what you have done to her. You told her not to tell anyone and tried to normalise the behaviour by saying just that, that it was normal."

Willis was sentenced to a total of 14 and a half years in prison for the six offences.

He was also handed a Sexual Harm Prevention Order to run indefinitely.

The officer in the case, Jimmy Bond, said: "I would like to praise the strength, courage and bravery of this very young victim and her family.

"Children should be able to grow up in a world without fear of abuse and the message that Dorset Police would like to give is that abusers of children have no place in our society."

Speaking after the trial, the victim's family said: "It has been a long two years. We are just relieved that she is believed again. This has absolutely destroyed our family.

"We can't put it into words how proud we are of her - to go through it not once but twice. Justice has been served and we can now try and move on the best we can."