A SOLDIER has been kicked out of the Army after admitting carrying out a number of sexual assaults on a child.

Kenneth Hopps served his last day in uniform on Friday before being jailed at Teesside Crown Court for 16 months.

The 33-year-old tried to force the teenager to touch his genitals after sexually touching her on a number of occasions several years ago.

The court heard how the repeated sexual attacks resulted in the girl turning to drugs and alcohol to dull her pain.

In a victim impact statement read at to the court she said Hopps had ruined her life and she was still struggling to come to terms with what happened to her.

Her statement read: "He ruined my life; he ruined my relationship with my family.

"As I tried to come to terms with what he did I suffered with my mental health and was angry all of the time – I was angry everything and everyone.

"My school work suffered and I left school early – I felt abandoned by everyone.

"I did turn to drink and drugs; I drunk too much and took cocaine and ecstasy. I got into debt and I stopped caring about myself, I stopped wearing make up and nice clothes.

"I struggled to hold down a job. I have had to leave Hartlepool and I live alone. I feel like I am the one being punished."

Richard Bennett, prosecuting, said Hopps had carried out a number of sexually motivated attacks on the teenager over a protracted period.

He told the court how Hopps would regularly touch the teenager's breasts and genital area before also trying to force her to touch him despite pleading with him to leave her alone.

The defendant also took a photogragh of the teenager while she was naked in the bath without her knowledge, Mr Bennett added.

Hopps, of Mary Munnion Quarter, Chelmsford but formerly of Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to three charges of sexual activity with a charge and one of production of a category C indecent image of a child.

Kristian Cavanagh, in mitigation, said his client had been forced to leave the Army following his conviction after serving with honour during a tour of Afghanistan.

He said the army had sent a senior officer to support Hopps during his court appearance.

Mr Cavanagh added: "He is somebody who has now been discharged from the army is capable of finding alternative work and he is someone who is capable of being rehabilitated."

Judge Jonathan Carroll sentenced Hopps to 16 months in custody and ordered that he sign on the sex offenders' register.

He added: "At some stage you managed to take a photograph of her naked in the bath, you kept that photograph on your phone, she was wholly unaware of is, she certainly hadn't consented to it being taken.

"I can only begin to imagine her horror knowing you had such a picture to be leering over whenever you chose."