A PAEDOPHILE who failed to attend court because of the coronavirus, has paid a hefty price with almost three extra years behind bars.

David McLeary was convicted of drugging and raping a young girl after a trial last month but he was absent when the verdicts were delivered as he claimed his girlfriend had developed Covid-19 symptoms.

He said NHS 111 told him not to attend court and sentence was consequently adjourned for two weeks.

But unluckily for him a new law - which has increased the automatic jail release point for serious sexual and violent offenders from halfway to two thirds - came into effect on April 1.

And as he has now been sentenced to 16 years he will have to serve 10 years eight months behind bars rather than eight years if sentenced last month.

The 47-year-old, of Bedford Road, Birkenhead, had been convicted of nine sexual offences and also administering a substance with intent of stupefying the girl to enable him to engage in sexual activity.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that McLeary began abusing the girl when she was 13 and afterwards he called her offensive names. His appalling behaviour escalated to him raping her and she told how if she did not do as he wanted she would get a beating.

He would also force her to take amphetamine and then go on to sexually abuse her, said Sarah Holt, prosecuting.

In a victim impact statement the victim said, “I can say I will never be the same because of what he did to me.”

She said she suffered from panic attacks, depression and ”terrible” anxiety and turned to drink and drugs to cope. “He has ruined my life.” McLeary had denied five charges of five rape, one of indecent assault, three of causing a child to engage in sexual activity and administering the amphetamine and claimed the victim was lying. Jailing him Judge Andrew Menary, QC, the Recorder of Liverpool said he had “no doubt” McLeary was violent and abusive towards the victim and had systematically sexually abused her.

Following his sentencing, McLeary was ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for life.