An autistic man has been jailed for sexually assaulting two young girls whose lives have been shattered by his abuse.

Liam Soper-James was himself aged only 10 to 19 when he committed the offences but his two victims told Exeter Crown Court that he had stolen their childhoods.

Soper-James suffers from ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, anxiety, social phobia and Asperger Syndrome, and may not have realised the dreadful harm he was causing to the girls.

He abused both repeatedly when he was growing up in the 2000s. He attempting to rape one when she was aged about 12 and touched the other when she was just nine years old.

One of the girls said in a victim personal statement: ‘Every day is a battle for me although I am constantly working on improvement. He took my childhood and adolescence. I was an innocent child. I never had a chance.’

Soper-James, aged 26, of Woodleigh Road, Newton Abbot, denied but was found guilty of 16 offences by a jury at Exeter Crown Court this week.

He was convicted of one attempted rape, two counts of inciting sexual activity with a child, five of sexual assault and two of assault by penetration against one child.

He was also found guilty of four sexual assaults, one assault by penetration and one charge of inciting sexual activity with a child in relation to the second.

Judge David Evans jailed him for a total of six years and seven months, put him on the sex offenders’ register for life, and made a Sexual Harm Prevention Order which will restrict his contact with children after his release.

He told him: ‘Whatever your perception was at the time, you caused enormous and enduring harm to both victims.’

During the trial, Miss Rachel Drake, prosecuting, said one girl was touched sexually by Soper-James from the age of about six while the other’s abuse started when she was nine.

The activity included him touching both girls, making them touch him, simulated sex with one of them and an attempt to have sex with one of them on a single occasion.

One of the girls told her mother about what was happening at one stage but Soper-James, who was a teenager at the time, denied it and was believed. The girls finally went to the police when they were in their late teens.

Soper-James denied any sexual interest in either of the girls and said the only physical contact had been when one of them had smacked his bottom and he had done the same to her in response.

He said he was a catering student at South Devon College before his arrest. He said his physical and psychological conditions, linked with the stress of this case, means he cannot work and is currently living on Personal Independence Payments.

He told the jury he has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, autism, Asperger Syndrome, dyspraxia, dyslexia, issues of coordination, depression, generalised anxiety disorder, social phobia and panic.

He said he had difficulty making friends at school, felt isolated, and his only job had been working in a burger restaurant one summer. He described himself as ‘asexual and not attracted to any gender’.

Miss Emily Pitts, mitigating, said Soper-James’s developmental difficulties made it hard for him to appreciate the seriousness of what he had done.