THIS week another chapter in the saga of one of Bury’s most abhorrent criminals has at last drawn to a close.

Serial sexual and violent offender Ian O’Callaghan has been told he may never leave prison after he was sentenced to at least another 15 years behind bars ­— on top of his existing sentence ­— for the rape of an 11-year-old girl.

The 51-year-old former Territorial Army soldier is already serving 28 years in prison for the brutal murder of Bury pensioner Shirley Leach at Bury Interchange in 1994. Despite a painstaking investigation it would take another 12 years to bring him to justice. It was during this time, while he was still at large and living in Bury, that O’Callaghan raped the 11-year-old girl in “revenge” for her having told her mother about an earlier incident in which he exposed himself to her.

His conviction for her rape came following a retrial 18 years after the offence was committed, after his courageous victim finally reported her horrific ordeal to the police.

What cannot be understated in this case is the incredible bravery shown by this woman, who herself is now a mother. Indeed this courage was recognised and praised by Judge John Potter at the sentencing of O’Callaghan.

Shockingly, however, thousands of sexual offences go unreported every year and in 2018 just 1.7 per cent of reported rapes in the UK resulted in a charge or summons. Campaigners say victims are being failed by the criminal justice system but many also report feeling forced to hide what has happened to them through misplaced feelings of guilt or embarrassment.

More must be done to overcome this. And it can only be hoped that O’Callaghan’s victim’s heroic example will serve to restore some faith in the efficacy of British courts and police, and that her actions will encourage others to come forward and not live in fear of retribution, or of being shamed or ostracised.