A CHILDMINDER and her partner who were part of a nationwide child sex ring with interests in bestiality were today jailed for a total of 34 years.

Joanne Gale, from Appleton, and 42-year-old John Connolly, from Thelwall, sexually abused a 12-year-old girl over a six month period.

Gale, aged 36 years, sexually assaulted the schoolgirl.

She also aided and abetted the rape of a schoolgirl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, whichwas carried out by rail industry consultant Connolly.

At Reading Crown Court today prosecutor Christopher Donnellan QC said the pair were in email contact with a retired sheep farmer Nicholas Cordery, who ran sex parties with animals at an isolated countryside farmhouse, near Malmesbury, Wiltshire.

They travelled to the farm, and were within several miles of it, when a sick party was called off, the court was told.

They also swapped indecent images of children with Cordery, who in turn sent vile pictures back.

Connolly was convicted on two on counts of raping a child, three sexual assaults of a girl under 13 years, two sexual assaults by penetration, as well as conspiracy to distribute indecent images of children, and four counts of possessing indecent images of children.

The offences took place between May and November 2011.

Gale was convicted of two counts of sexual activity with a child, two counts of aiding and abetting the child's rape and two of aiding and abetting the assault by penetration of a child.

She was also convicted of conspiracy to distribute indecent images of children and possession of indecent images of children.  

These were unanimous guilty verdicts by a jury after a re-trial in December, last year. It followed the first trial during last summer, which saw the jury discharged.

Barry Kogan, defending Connolly, said: "He is a man of previous good character. There is no suggestion he has ever made inappropriate advances towards children in the past."

Siobhan Molloy, defending Gale, said: "She has always denied the sexual offences and doesn't acknowledge the charges."

Addressing Connolly, Judge Stephen John said: "I am satisfied that you are a devious, manipulative and determined man.

"Whenever it suited you, you chose to blame your co-defendant.

"You show not a shred on remorse and paint yourself as being the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. Like many paedophiles, you are quite unprepared to confront your offending."

Connolly was jailed for 20 years. He will serve at least two thirds before he will be considered for parole. He will then be released on an extended licence for six years.

Addressing Gale, Judge John said: "You are assessed as equally culpable with Connolly for becoming involved in extreme and deviant sexual behaviour, including children and animals.

"Given the nature of your involvement with others who sought to groom and abuse children and and your interest in accessing groups with an interest in bestiality, there is an increased risk that you will seek the opportunity to engage with such people in the future.

"You, like Connolly, pose a significant risk of serious harm to members of the public, specifically of sexual, emotional and psychological harm to children across the age spectrum."

Gale was handed a 14-year prison term. She will serve at least two thirds before being considered for release. She will then be released on extended licence for four years.

Gale and Connolly were arrested as part of a wider investigation into a paedophile ring by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service Paedophile Unit. 

Others from the child sex ring have already been jailed for their part in carrying out crimes against children.

The ring-leader of the sick enterprise was Queen’s guard Simon Wyn-Davies, aged 37 years, of Berkshire admitted 22 sexual offences, including rape of a child under 13, conspiracy to rape and distributing indecent images of children.

He blamed his offending on post-traumatic stress syndrome following tours of duty in the war-torn country of Afghanistan.

Wyn-Davies was sentenced to a minimum of 11 years behind bars before he can be considered for parole - a hearing at Reading Crown Court was told last October.

Davies' teaching assistant wife, Fiona Parsons-Davies, aged 45 years, from Windsor, admitted cruelty by not reporting it - and was jailed for three years.

Others in the paedophile ring were sentenced at the same court last September.

Farmer Cordery, aged 63 years, from Wiltshire, admitted two counts of conspiracy to rape a child under 13, and possession and distribution of indecent images.

He was jailed for 11 years in an indeterminate sentence for the protection of the public. He will serve a minimum of five-and-a-half years before he will be considered for release by a parole board.

Bank manager Anthony Flack, aged 54 years, from Bristol, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rape a child under 13.

He was jailed for 10 years in an indeterminate sentence for the protection of the public. He will serve at least five years.

HIV sufferer and former Scout leader Peter Malpas, aged 47 years, from Northampton, admitted sexually assaulting a child aged under 13 and possession and distribution of indecent images of children.

He was jailed for a total of 11-and-half-years for the protection of the public. He will serve at least five years and nine months.

Speaking after the case toda, Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh, of the Metropolitan Police's Paedophile Unit, said: "This has been a very complex investigation, covering several police force areas.

"I would like to pay tribute not only to the Paedophile Unit, but to all those partner agencies that supported this case: health, social care and education authorities; other police forces; Crown Prosecution Service; and most importantly our amazing survivors, the victims.

"Everyone involved has secured compelling evidence against these highly manipulative and dangerous individuals.

"All I ask is that victims do not sit in silence; please have the confidence to disclose."