A CHILD rapist who sexually abused three young girls over more than 20 years has been jailed for 22 years.

Dennis Johnson, aged 58, of Manchester Road, Westhoughton, appeared from jail via a video link to the Nightingale Court at the University of Bolton Stadium was sentenced to 22 years and six months in prison plus an additional year on licence by Judge Graeme Smith.

Following a trial he was found guilty of committing 21 separate offences including rape, sexual assault, causing actual bodily harm and witness intimidation.

Johnson, who committed his offences in the Wigan area, was also made subject to a sexual harm prevention order for life.

His vile offences came to light in September 2018 when police were contacted by social services to say that a pre-teenage girl had disclosed that Johnson had been touching her.

Then, a short time after the disclosure, it was revealed that Johnson had also abused two other girls between 1991 and 2004. The abuse started when they were as young as aged four and lasted until they were in their mid teens.

The girls were repeatedly sexually assaulted by Johnson and he raped one of them multiple times.

The court heard that Johnson also sexually abused a young boy in the 1990s, forcing the child to commit a sex act on him.

"Their trauma is real, deep, and long-lasting. It is impossible to hear the statements made by those you abused without feeling deeply moved," Judge Smith told Johnson.

The judge added that the evidence heard during the trial "paints a comprehensive picture of you as a violent, controlling man with no regard to the effects of your actions on others."

During the trial Johnson tried to claim was innocent and his accusers and their families had conspired against him for financial reasons, fabicating evidence and influencing witnesses.

"You not only denied all of the allegations against you, but you effectively created your own alternative narrative, in which you were the victim," said Judge Smith.

"In fact, the evidence against you was overwhelming, and the allegations made by you against the very people you had abused have, I am sure, only increased the trauma they have suffered."

Speaking following the sentencing DC Karen Dewhurst said: "The sexual exploitation of children is abhorrent and Johnson's despicable abuse spanned years.

"I want to commend the bravery of all four of Johnson's victims, their courage and support throughout this investigation and has been crucial in helping to secure a significant conviction.

"Although today's sentence will never reverse the abuse Johnson inflicted, I hope it does help in providing a sense of closure for his victims knowing that he will be behind bars for over 22 years.

"Child sexual exploitation takes place in many forms and GMP is committed to ensuring all those responsible for such grotesque abuse face the appropriate justice." If you have been the victim of such crimes or feel you know someone who is a victim then please get in touch with police. All reports will be treated with the respect and sensitivity they deserve and we will work closely with you to ensure justice prevails."

And and NSPCC spokesman aid: “This was a sustained and sickening campaign of abuse which spanned decades, and the bravery of Johnson’s victims in speaking up cannot be understated.

“Child sexual abuse can devastate lives with its impact lasting long into adulthood and we would urge anyone who has been sexually abused, no matter when it happened or who the perpetrator was, to seek support and help ensure predators like Johnson can be brought to justice.”

Children can contact Childline 24/7 on 0800 1111. Adults with concerns about a child’s wellbeing can phone the NSPCC helpline on 0808 8005000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk