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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 April 2007, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Spared jail after raping girl, 10
Swansea Crown Court
Edgecome was 'traumatised' when told the girl's age, the court heard
A 20-year-old man who raped a girl aged 10 has been spared jail in what a judge said was a "wholly exceptional" case.

Liam Edgecombe, from Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, was given a conditional discharge by the judge, saying he could see why he thought the girl was 16.

The court heard Edgecombe, who admitted rape, was "visibly traumatised" when he was told the girl's real age.

Mr Justice Roderick Evans, at Swansea Crown Court, said the girl "was looking for a man and got what she wanted".

The girl was in the care of a local authority when she was taken to Haverfordwest on 24 November, 2006.

Prosecuting, Chris Clee said the girl pretended to go to the toilet and took her chance to "disappear".

His belief that she was over 16 was a reasonable one
Janet Gedrych, defending

The youngster met Edgecombe in the town centre the same night and was invited back to his flat.

Mr Clee said Edgecombe, a painter, raised the subject of the girl's age but she asked him: "Does it matter?" and the pair had intercourse twice.

The next day police spotted the girl in the centre of the town and she was returned to care workers.

She told them what had happened but refused to co-operate with the police inquiry.

However, Edgecombe was traced and admitted what had happened.

His barrister, Janet Gedrych, said Edgecombe was "visibly traumatised" on being told the girl was only 10.

Sexual experience

He became so upset police granted him bail on condition he left his flat and returned to live at home with his mother.

"This is an exceptional case," said Miss Gedrych.

"He met her outside a pub. His belief that she was over 16 was a reasonable one.

"It was not her first sexual experience," she said, adding Edgecombe was "acutely embarrassed and ashamed".

Mr Clee said there was no doubt the girl consented to sex but because of her age the offence amounted to rape.

The judge said: "She was a girl of 10 and you are a man of 20. Those bald facts do not properly represent the true facts of this case.

"The prosecution accepts that you believed she was 16 and that that belief was reasonable."

Describing the case as "wholly exceptional," Mr Justice Evans said he had to balance the need to protect young girls and the need to punish Edgecombe.

Edgecombe was conditionally discharged for 18 months and ordered to register with the police as a sex offender.

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