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13 May 2011, 13:07
A man freed after 27 years of wrongful imprisonment for rape and murder has been spared a further jail term for sexually assaulting a young woman.
Sean Hodgson was released in 2009 after having his conviction for the rape and murder of Teresa De Simone in 1979 overturned.
Her body was found in her car at the rear of the Tom Tackle pub in Commercial Road, Southampton, and Hodgson was sentenced three years later.
The 60-year-old was ordered to complete a three-year community order with supervision, to abide by a Sexual Offences Prevention Order until further notice and to sign on the sex offenders register for five years.
Hodgson had admitted sexually assaulting a vulnerable 22-year-old woman on August 12 last year, less than 18 months after his release.
Sentencing at Durham Crown Court, Judge Christopher Prince had warned Hodgson could be jailed for at least two years should he refuse to be bound by the court order.
He said he could impose a community-based sentence only if it put the public at no risk.
Hodgson, of Park Street, Willington, near Crook, County Durham, agreed to the order after taking legal advice from his barrister Martin Heslop.
Judge Prince said yesterday: "The fact this defendant has spent 27 years in custody for a crime he did not commit is not a relevant sentencing factor for this offence.
"He is not entitled to a reduction from sentence solely because he has served that time in custody.
"If he is due compensation, that comes from another source.
"Bearing in mind the vulnerability of the victim, the use of alcohol by this defendant, and the apparent lack of remorse or willingness to accept that which he has done will allow this to be at the top end of sentencing, of even a minimum of two years.
"He clearly bears a great resentment against a criminal justice system that has deprived him of 27 years' liberty.
"The key is to protect the public as much as is possible and in the most effective manner from any possible future offending by Mr Hodgson.''
Hodgson, who suffers from depression and schizophrenia, maintained his innocence throughout his incarceration, which prevented him from being paroled.
He was released in March 2009 after his conviction was quashed at London's Court of Appeal.
He launched a compensation bid against the Home Office for wrongful conviction and could be eligible for up to £1 million.
He is understood to have received £250,000 so far.
In 2009, Ms De Simone's killer was named as David Lace, who committed suicide in 1988, aged 26.
His body was exhumed from a cemetery in Portsmouth in order for DNA tests to be carried out to confirm his identity.