A MAN who sexually abused two young girls over an eight year period has been jailed for five-and-a-half years.

Michael Long repeatedly molested the girls during the 1990s when he was looking after them.

The 53-year-old pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of indecent assault but was convicted following a trial at Swindon Crown Court.

As he was being led away by the dock officer he mumbled in the direction of the jury: “I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it.”

Long had been babysitting for the young girls when he carried out the abuse on them about twenty years ago.

The court heard that though he had no previous convictions of a sexual nature he had matters of dishonesty and drugs on his record.

Long, of Pinehurst Road, pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of indecent assault between the start of 1990 and the end of 1997 but was convicted following a trial.

The girls were both under the age of 14 years, and as young as about seven years old, when the abuse started.

Chris Smyth, defending, said there was no suggestion he had offended against any other children in the 17 years since the offences.

He pointed out that the maximum sentence for such offences at the time was ten years, though it would be much higher now.

Jailing Long, Judge Douglas Field said he had no option except to impose an immediate custodial sentence.

He said: “You are a man of 53 and the jury has, quite rightly in my view, convicted you of all 12 counts of sexually abusing these two young girls.

“Over time you frequently abused them. The abuse against one was more serious. The penetration was brief and there was no violence.

“The abuse of the other was less serious but also frequent – again momentary, no violence, but frequent.

“Both these young victims have been psychologically damaged, both had difficulties with relationships with men. These offences of course merit custody – immediate custody."

As well as jailing Long for five-and-a-half years, Judge Field also told him he must register as a sex offender for life.

The judge also imposed a sexual offences prevention order restricting Long’s liberty when he is eventually released from prison.