AN Okehampton charity worker who was jailed for a string of sex offences against a little girl in Bristol more than 30 years ago had his sentence cut on Tuesday, after his community rallied around to support his appeal.

Dozens of family members and people from the community travelled to the Court of Appeal in London to hear a challenge to Robert Jeffery Taylor's five-year-jail term.

Taylor, 67, of Berryball Close, Okehampton, was jailed in November 2012 after he pleaded guilty at Bristol Crown Court to eleven counts of indecent assault against a girl in the 1980s.

But after top judges heard of his subsequent 35 years of hard work and good deeds, plus about 100 character references, they cut his 'excessive' sentence to four years.

The Appeal Court heard Taylor admitted a series of assaults on the girl, starting with a sexually motivated kiss on the shoulder when she was only nine and escalating to include serious abuse.

But his barrister, Janick Fielding, said that, since that offending, Taylor had completely changed and devoted his life to good deeds, perhaps in order to make up for the bad he had done.

'He went on to spend 35 years conducting himself in an impeccable manner, attracting the favour of numerous people in many walks of life, doing charitable works and taking his place as a father figure in the family he became enmeshed in,' he said.

'He became a step-father to four children and there is no suggestions he even looked at them in an unacceptable manner on any occasion.

'Although he behaved in an unacceptable manner many years ago, he has demonstrated that a leopard can change its spots.'

Giving judgment, Lord Justice Laws, who sat with Mr Justice Globe and Judge Paul Batty QC, said Taylor's offending was serious and had a severe impact on his victim's life.

Allowing the appeal, he said: 'There was here substantial mitigation, unusually so.

'This is a man who has, to a very great extent, rehabilitated himself and lived a good and fruitful life.

'The conclusion we have reached is that we should give leave to appeal and reduce the total sentence passed from five years to four years.'