A WANTED child sex offender worked on a Cumbrian market during the seven years he was “at large” from Cumbria Police.

Jeffrey Maclagan, 64, was finally brought to justice and handed a lengthy jail term yesterday for the sexual abuse of an eight-year-old girl in the 1970s.

But, during the sentencing hearing at Carlisle Crown Court, a judge and prosecutor raised concerns after hearing how Maclagan had absconded in 2012.

In that year, Maclagan was charged after police learned of “repeated and sustained” offending which had occurred decades before.

Charles Brown, prosecuting, told the court how the victim initially felt unable to report the crimes, partly because “she was frightened she wouldn’t be believed”.

After Maclagan was charged, he was bailed to appear before magistrates in February, 2012. But when he failed to show, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Last month, a nationwide appeal was launched for information about the whereabouts of the man, described as having links to Cumbria, Kent and London.

At the crown court, Maclagan’s barrister, Brendan Burke, said: “He saw himself on Crimewatch and handed himself in.”

Judge Peter Davies admitted he was “very puzzled” by the situation, while Mr Brown could offer “no explanation” to why somebody subject to a warrant had “remained at large for seven years”.

Mr Burke responded: “He was not lying low. He was working on the market in Keswick, often coming into daily contact with the police in that capacity.”

Maclagan admitted four charges of indecent assault on a child, and one of indecency with the youngster.

Mr Burke said: “He said he was shocked he had done it. He was disgusted with himself.”

Maclagan was jailed for eight-and-a-half-years, for what Judge Davies said was a “sustained and repeated course of conduct”.

Of the victim, the judge noted: “This has had a profound and lifelong psychological impact.”

Maclagan, of no fixed address, must also sign the sex offenders’ register indefinitely.