A COUPLE whose dysfunctional relationship included the long-term sexual abuse of a young girl have been jailed for a total of 15 years.

Martin Panton, 49, who first had sex with the child when she was 12 and went on to abuse her until she was 16, was locked up for ten years at Bradford Crown Court today.

His former partner, Katherine Pengilley, 54, was led weeping to the cells after she was imprisoned for five years.

Panton, formerly of Parkwood Street, Keighley, but who has since been held in custody in Leeds Prison, pleaded guilty to four charges of indecency with a child and two offences of indecent assault, dating from 17 years ago.

Bakery worker, Pengilley, of Williams Road, Steeton, admitted two charges of indecently assaulting the girl when she was 13 and two charges of indecency with a child.

Prosecutor Patricia Docherty said Panton first had sex with the girl on a beach when she was 12. He went on to abuse her on numerous occasions until she was 16 or 17.

She alerted the police last year, saying Panton had made her feel loved at the time.

They had met up to four times a week, with him passing her off as his girlfriend when she was 16.

Pengilley indecently assaulted the girl twice on one night when she was aged 13, the court was told.

The court heard that Panton and Pengilley heavily abused alcohol. Both had mental health problems and Panton had attempted suicide several times.

Judge Colin Burn said that time was not a great healer for victims of sexual abuse, coping alone over the years with what had happened to them.

"If anything, the longer time goes on, the greater the damage," he said.

Panton abused his victim on a regular basis, beginning when she was 12. Pengilley encouraged and took part in the sexual abuse of the teenager on one occasion, Judge Burn noted.

After the case, an NSPCC spokesman said: “We hope today’s sentences will bring some degree of comfort to Panton and Pengilly’s victim.”

“We need to ensure that survivors of child sexual abuse feel confident to come forward, safe in the knowledge that their voices will be heard and that justice can be achieved.

“That’s why the NSPCC is visiting primary schools across the country, including in Bradford, with its ‘Speak Out Stay Safe’ service, empowering children to protect themselves from abuse and to speak out if they ever experience it.”

  • The NSPCC’s helpline for adults who require support is available 24 hours a day for free on 0808 800 5000. Help for children and young people is available through ChildLine on 0800 1111.