A Jehovah's Witness, who raped two young girls and sexually assaulted another, has been jailed for ten years.

Patrick Nolan, 61, was told by a judge at Bradford Crown Court: "This was an appalling act of self-gratification."

Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC added: "I have to deal with you for the most serious offence a man can commit, short of homicide. Society would be outraged if I didn't pass upon you a sentence measured in years."

Nolan pleaded guilty to four charges of rape and one of indecent assault, committed on three different girls between 1983 and 1991.

Prosecutor Simon Kealey said that Irishman Nolan committed the offences while he was living in the Skipton area, before returning to Ireland, from where he was extradited late last year.

Mr Kealey said Nolan touched the breasts of his first victim when she was aged 14 or 15. She was upset and shocked but was too frightened to say anything about what had happened.

His second victim was aged ten or 11 when he raped her on three occasions.

His final victim was only nine when he raped her as she cried and told him to stop, to no avail. Nolan made her promise to say nothing about it.

The complainants plucked up the courage to tell police in 2001-2002.

James Keeley, mitigating, said Nolan, of Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland, was an illegitimate child who had been brought up by his grandparents.

Mr Keeley said that while growing up Nolan suffered unwanted sexual advances from a Catholic priest and a neighbour and was regularly beaten by his schoolteachers. He left Ireland in the late 60s and found work on a farm in the Skipton area.

Mr Keeley said his client had no previous convictions, had pleaded guilty at the first practical opportunity and was in poor health.

He added: "He is a Jehovah's Witness by faith and that has provided him with strength throughout the years."

Judge Durham Hall told Nolan he was a drunken, violent man who had committed very grave offences.

He described the rapes of the second girl as callous and said Nolan had forced himself on the nine-year-old, causing her significant terror and pain. "She was crying throughout the incident and begging you to stop."

He imposed a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, preventing direct contact with children.