A man has been spared jail for molesting a young girl - because he was still a child himself when the offence took place.
Gary Fish, now 30, abused the child more than a decade ago, when he was just a teenager.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the offence has continued to affect the victim, who is now an adult, and left her with trust issues.
Prosecutor Alec Burns told the court the girl, who cannot be named, had told her mother what had happened at the time but no court action resulted.
She said in a victim statement: "I feel no-one believed me. I felt I had no trust in anyone.
"It has affected my life since then. I do have trust issues and feel this is a lot to do with what happened."
Mr Burns told the court Fish made a full confession when questioned about the attack by the police and added: "He stated that at the time he didn't know it was wrong."
Fish, of Hazel Avenue, Houghton, admitted indecent assault.
Mr recorder Ben Nolan QC sentenced him to a community order for two years with supervision and five years on the sex offenders register.
The judge told him: "Undoubledly, this is a serious sexual assault but you were only 15 at the time. You were immature, sexually, and in other respects.
"Although you must have known what you were doing was wrong, I am satisfied you did not have the maturity to understand the seriousness of what you were doing.
"Fifteen years have now passed and there have been no further offences of any sexual nature committed by you or any concerns about you committing sexual
The judge added: "Half a lifetime has passed, with absolutely no hint of repetition."
The court heard Fish was not deemed suitable for sex offender groupwork as officials were concerned about him mixing with more sophisticated attackers who have committed crimes recently.
The judge said Fish was an isolated character and added: "It is not a good idea to make acquaintance with mature sex offenders."
Jamie Adams, defending, said there had been no attempt to "minimise" Fish's offending.