A man who repeatedly raped a teenage girl he met in a pub 17 years ago has been jailed.
Mark David Hughes, 36, from Brighton, was handed a seven-year sentence on Monday after being found guilty of three rapes on the same night in April 2006.
Hughes met his victim through mutual friends at a since-closed pub.
Instead of taking her home, he took the girl, who was five years younger than him, to a succession of open spaces in the area to commit the offences before leaving her in a park.
She eventually awoke alone dishevelled and covered in mud and made her way home.
The victim kept the incident secret until 2018.
Hughes denied the rapes but police said the case against him was "strong."
Detective Constable Richie Danton said: "We always follow up such reports, no matter from how long ago, to seek justice for victims wherever possible, and to ensure they have access to specialist support and advice."
He will be a registered sex offender for life.
Despite reporting the incident in 2018, it still took four years for the victim to find justice.
Courts in England and Wales have been struggling to process sex crimes for years, a situation that was only made worse by the pandemic.
The number of sex crimes logged by police hit another record in 2021 and there were “substantial increases” as lockdown restrictions eased.
Police-recorded sexual offences reached their highest level in a 12-month period (183,587) in the year to December 2021. This was a 22% increase on 2020 (150,748) and up 13% from 2019 (163,067).
Numbers of crimes recorded were lower during lockdowns but there have been “substantial increases since April 2021”, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Some 37% of sexual offences recorded (67,125) were rapes – a 21% rise from 55,592 in the 12 months to December 2020.
The ONS said the latest statistics may reflect a “number of factors”, including the “impact of high-profile incidents, media coverage and campaigns on people’s willingness to report incidents to the police, as well as a potential increase in the number of victims”.
It comes as separate figures showed the proportion of suspects being taken to court has fallen to a new record low and remains the lowest for rape cases.