A 44-YEAR-OLD man, who was found guilty of 13 counts of sex abuse on young girls, will go to prison for 10 years.

Mark Whitehead, of Darwen, will also be given a sex offenders’ prevention order for life and is permanently disqualified from working with children.

The charges Whitehead had been found guilty of involved seven of indecency with a child and six of indecent assault, which happened when the girls were aged between four and 13 at various addresses in the town.

Whitehead, a former furniture builder, was also cleared of one count of indecency with a child and another of sexual assault, following a one-week trial at Preston Crown Court.

Speaking after the sentencing, the mother of one of the girls, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said she was very pleased with the result.

She said: “In a way I feel like there has been a little bit of closure.

“Through them speaking out, justice has been done.

“If he had been given a shorter sentence, I don’t think it would really have encouraged anybody else to speak up, but I think this will.

“If it was up to me, he would have gone to prison forever.

“It should never have happened.”

The mum said she hoped the sentence would encourage more victims to come forward.

She said: “If I can get one person to read this and think ‘I can stop this’, it will all be worth it.

“I want to encourage people who are living this nightmare to come forward and get help.

“All the victims are now older so they are free from what was happening to them.

“But they know that this could still be happening somewhere to other people by other offenders.”

Whitehead was arrested on August 2, 2011 and had denied all 15 of the charges.