A MAN who admitted having sexual relations with two 13-year-old girls sought to change his pleas to not guilty prior to him being sentenced.

But Connor Atkins’ application was refused by a judge out of the area, and his original pleas to six counts of sexual activity with a child stood.

The case returned to Durham Crown Court, where he made the original admissions in February, and the hearing was told by defence counsel David Callan that the defendant has written a short letter in which he says he is now “ashamed” and takes “full responsibility” for his actions.

But, imposing a nine-year prison sentence on Atkins, now 21, Judge Christopher Prince told him: “In the letter handed to your counsel, you say you feel ashamed and you take full responsibility.

“Well, you might feel embarrassed by what you did, but I don’t feel you have any sense of shame, as you tried to evade responsibility by asking to withdraw your guilty pleas, to try to escape answering for what you did.”

Judge Prince said this meant that having thought they would not have to come to court to give evidence and for their account to be questioned, it created a “considerable delay” in proceedings, causing the witnesses renewed anxiety in the process.

Paul Reid, prosecuting said the offences took place over two days, when the defendant, then aged 19, was living at Poplar Street, Stanley.

One charge involved one girl and the other five with the other.

It came to light following discussions at school and a teacher was notified, resulting in police involvement.

Mr Reid said one of the girls believed that she “loved” Atkins and chose not to submit a victim statement.

When questioned, Atkins claimed he thought they were aged over 16.

Sentencing him, Judge Prince told Atkins: “There isn’t much difference between 55 and 60, but there is a significant difference between 13 and 19.”

Atkins will be subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for ten years and must register as a sex offender indefinitely.