The NSPCC today praised the "incredible" courage of a brave girl who spoke out against a monstrous paedophile.

Kevin Clegg raped his victim more than 40 times over six years, in what a judge described as a "campaign of rape".

The 37-year-old, from Bootle, also committed 42 other sexual offences against the child during his sickening abuse.

After ruining the girl's childhood and leaving her emotionally scarred, Clegg then forced her to endure the hell of a trial.

He admitted two comparatively less serious sexual offences, but denied 10 others - some including multiple acts of rape.

But a jury unanimously found Clegg guilty on all counts and he was jailed for 19 years yesterday at Liverpool Crown Court.

Kevin Clegg, 37, of no fixed address but from Bootle

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children told the ECHO the girl's bravery had ensured justice for the "merciless predator".

A spokesman for the charity said: "Clegg's prolonged campaign of abuse of this vulnerable child is utterly horrific, and forcing her to face him in court by denying what he had done must have had a further devastating impact on her.

"The courage she showed in speaking out against her abuser was incredible, and ensured this merciless predator faced the justice he deserved.

"We hope she is receiving the support she needs and can take some comfort knowing Clegg has finally been held accountable for these terrible crimes."

Clegg admitted two offences - one count of sexual assault and one of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

This related to touching the girl's breasts and genitalia over clothing, and making her rub his genitals.

He denied 10 further offences, including six counts of rape, one count of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, one count of sexual assault of a child, assault by penetration, and sexual assault. Some of these counts referred to multiple instances of abuse, for example 20 rapes in one count.

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Clegg, of no fixed address, stood trial last month - meaning the traumatised girl had to give evidence - when he was convicted of the 10 offences.

When he gave evidence, Clegg claimed he only kissed the girl once and told the jury that he stood by what he said in a police interview.

But within minutes of saying that, when Martine Snowdon, prosecuting, pointed out he said in his interview there were a further two or three incidents when he kissed the girl after that first kiss, he claimed his answer in the interview was a "mistake".

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Judge Denis Watson, QC, said: "The jury rejected your evidence."

The judge said a victim statement set out the "significant psychological harm" the child suffered, including her "dread and anxiety" of Clegg.

He said it also described "a loss of childhood" and "continuing emotional breakdowns".

Judge Watson said this was "severe psychological harm", sustained as part of a "campaign of offending" against a "particularly vulnerable" victim.

He later added during his sentencing remarks: "I conclude that she was extremely vulnerable due to her circumstances."

Charlotte Atherton, defending, accepted it was "very serious offending against a young child", over a significant period of time.

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She said Clegg had no previous convictions and had "accepted some limited behaviour" by his guilty pleas to two of the offences.

Ms Atherton said this meant the judge could afford him some credit in respect of those offences and "gives an indication the defendant is susceptible to rehabilitation".

Referring to the offences Clegg had admitted, Judge Watson said: "Both of these are serious offences, but in a completely different league to the offences proved at trial."

He added: "Such admissions as you made were limited. They can be characterised by you minimising your offending as much as you could."

Clegg showed no emotion in the dock when Judge Watson jailed him and imposed an extended one year on licence.

Kevin Clegg, 37, of no fixed address but from Bootle

The type of sentence means he will serve at least half of the term – nine and a half years – behind bars, before he is eligible for parole.

He will then only be released before the end of the 19-year sentence if he is no longer considered to be a risk to the public.

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Judge Watson told Clegg he must sign on the Sex Offenders Register and comply with a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and restraining order for life.

Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111. Adults with concerns about a child's wellbeing can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 8005000 or email [email protected]