A MAN unwittingly handed himself in to police for a sex offence he committed 23 years before.
Peter Hodgson, 38, became concerned last year when gossip about him raping a girl years ago spread in the East Durham village in which he was living.
Durham Crown Court was told Hodgson went to police saying he was feeling harassed by the talk and told officers the incident involved consensual sex with a girl when he was a teenager.
Police traced the girl and calculated she would have been a schoolgirl.
Hodgson pleaded not guilty to rape, but admitted sexual intercourse with a child under 13 years. A jury acquitted him of rape after a trial earlier this year.
The court was told Hodgson was playing truant from school in Peterlee when he met the girl by chance and they had sex.
Judge Christopher Prince sentenced Hodgson to eight months in prison, suspended for two years.
The judge told him: “You went to the police about this, not out of any sense of remorse, but more out of self-preservation.
“It was clear at the time you first spoke to the officers you didn’t believe you had committed any offence.
“You were acquitted of rape, so must be sentenced on your account that this was consensual. I have to have regard to the seriousness of the offence, but also to the passage of time.
“Even if you had been dealt with at the time, I think it unlikely a youth court would have sentenced you to immediate detention.”
Hodgson, of Park Road North, Middlesbrough, must register as a sex offender for 10 years.