ALISON Souter is beginning a 12-month prison sentence for sending an abusive letter to a young girl who had been the victim of a vicious sexual predator.

Neil Swales was jailed for eight years for four offences of sexual abuse against the girl, who was aged seven or eight at the time.

But Souter, 52, who was Swales’ girlfriend, refused to believe her partner was guilty. She wrote anonymously to the little girl, accusing her of lying. “You may be known as the girl who ruined an innocent man’s life,” she added.

Fortunately, the girl’s mother intercepted the letter before she had read more than the first line.

But it still had such a traumatic effect on her that she is still having psychological counselling.

Souter, who now accepts Swales is a paedophile and wants nothing more to do with him, deserves every minute of the jail sentence that the Honorary Recorder of York Judge Paul Batty gave her.

Yet this appalling case also highlights just how manipulative and deceitful abusers can be.

“For a lot of women it can be difficult to understand that someone they’re close to can abuse or has abused a child,” said Fiona Richards of the NSPCC.

“We all tend to think of ourselves as good judges of character, particularly if we think we know someone well. (But) people who abuse children ... rely on our sense of trust and our willingness to support the people we love and care for.”

In one sense, then, Souter was another of Swales’ victims. This perhaps makes it possible to understand what she did. Understand, but not forgive.