A LONG-SERVING school caretaker has been jailed for a series of child abuse offences spanning more than 30 years.

Paul Noel Stephen Cooper had a “lifelong sexual interest in young children” and conducted repeated sexual assaults on two teenage girls, York Crown Court heard.

The attacks turned the younger girl’s life into a “living hell” and traumatised the older girl so much she continued to fear him after she became an adult, the court was told.

Sarah Mallett, prosecuting, said police found 144 illegal sexual videos and pictures on Cooper’s personal laptop, including 22 videos and 39 pictures showing very serious abuse.

Most had been deleted, but some were being automatically downloaded by software from the internet when police seized the computer.

The images featured girls of the same age as or younger than his victims.

Defence barrister Nicholas Johnson said there had been no allegations of impropriety during Cooper’s 22 years as caretaker of Archbishop Holgate School. He had lost his job there after his offences came to light in 2012.

Cooper, 61, who was formerly of Tang Hall but who moved to Bridlington after his arrest, pleaded guilty to two indecent assaults, five sexual assaults and 12 offences of possessing indecent, prohibited or extreme pictures or videos. None of the offences involved his work.

He was jailed for five years and nine months, put on the sex offenders’ register for life and banned from working with or having unsupervised contact with children among other controls including on his use of the Internet.

The Recorder of York, Judge Stephen Ashurst, said: “This, in my judgment, is an extremely distressing case. You have had a lifelong sexual interest in young children.”

The older girl, who was abused when she was aged between 13 and 16, had had to live with “disgusting” memories of the attacks..

Cooper had repeatedly abused the younger girl “in the same vulgar and disgusting way”, including when he knew she had suffered a bereavement.

Det Con Nick Lane of North Yorkshire Police’s Protecting Vulnerable Persons Unit said: “Paul Cooper has been targeting the most vulnerable members of society for over 30 years and this is reflected in the comments made by His Honour Judge Ashurst and the sentence he gave him.

“I just hope that his victims will take some comfort from this and his admissions of the harm he’s caused and begin to rebuild their lives.”

His depravity was highlighted not only in the accounts given by his victims but the images of child abuse that he was searching for online, which include the most serious levels of abuse.”

For Cooper, Nicholas Johnson said he started to suffer depression in 2000 when he had had “considerable stress” in his working life. In 2007 he had tragedies in his personal life followed by a traumatic event a few years later.

He now needed to sleep wearing an oxygen mask and and had heart and other medical conditions.

He had used gambling and alcohol as coping mechanisms. Many of the later offences occurred when he had been drinking.

A spokesman for Archbishop Holgate School, said after the case: “The school can confirm Mr Paul Cooper was employed between October 1, 1990, and October 31, 2012, as a site manager”.