Published: 06:00, 25 September 2020
A 45-year-old who confessed to police he had molested a young girl, has finally been jailed - four years later.
Lee Cole, from Chatham, dialled 999 and admitted to an operator he had carried out the sex attack in July 2016.
But it was only last November he was told he was being charged.
And now - almost a year later - he has appeared at Maidstone Crown Court.
Cole, of Boundary Road, told police he had done something "stupid and terrible", said he feared going to prison but later pleaded guilty to sexual assault of a child and two offences of indecent assault.
Judge Julian Smith jailed him for four-and-a-half years after branding the delay "wholly unsatisfactory".
He also described it as an example of the criminal justice system "not working as it should".
The judge asked why it had taken more than three years between Cole's arrest and his charge "by postal requisition" and was told the case file had simply gone "back and forth" between police and the Crown Prosecution Service.
Prosecutor Richard Job told the court: "He told the operator he had done something terrible, would be going to prison for it and intended to kill himself.
"He was found by police and he told them he would plead guilty and serve his sentence."
A second victim, who had been sexually abused by Cole 18 years earlier, heard of his arrest and came forward a short while later.
The prosecutor told the court, however, that the subsequent delay in charging Cole in respect of all three offences was "extraordinarily exceptional".
But Judge Smith remarked: "That is wholly unsatisfactory...that is the system not working as it should. It is regrettable and all are frustrated at that delay."
Jessica Ward, defending, said Cole was "ashamed, embarrassed and sorry" for what he had done to his two victims.
On his release from prison, he will be subject to a sexual harm prevention order and a requirement to sign on the sex offenders' register, both indefinitely.
Det Supt Samantha Price, the police's head of investigations in north division, has responded to the judge's comments.
She said: "When allegations of sexual abuse committed by Lee Cole were reported to us in July 2016, our officers acted immediately to safeguard the victims from further harm and worked with partner agencies to ensure they received the necessary support.
"All available evidence was thoroughly assessed, in close liaison with the Crown Prosecution Service, and this led to Cole being charged with three offences in November 2019.
"We recognise that our investigations can be lengthy, however, it is important to remember we only have one opportunity to prepare a case for court and, to achieve the best result for victims, we need to ensure the evidence we present is of the highest standard."