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7 September 2012, 12:11
A paedophile who sexually assaulted a four year old girl while she was being taken shopping in Watford has been jailed.
Steven Fitzgerald, 54, from Queens Gate in Lord Street, Watford, faces the rest of his life in prison after admitting several other sexual offences, dating back to the 1990s.
St Albans Crown Court heard how on 13 August 2011, he was being watched by security staff in Primark, Watford, when he approached a four-year-old girl as she stood behind her mother, who was looking through clothing rails.
The drunk then put his hand up the girl's dress and into her knickers before she called out to her mother.
His subsequent arrest sparked a woman to come forward about a string of sex assaults over a six year period in the late 90s when she was aged between six and 11, which he had told her were a "game".
Fitzgerald pleaded guilty to all seven charges and admitted to having "urges he can't control" in report by probation.
The court heard how he had nine previous convictions for sex offences, beginning when he was 17 for indecent assault and included a similar offence to his latest, of sexually assaulting a young girl in a supermarket in 2004 and again in 2008.
He had previously been on the sex offenders register and was subject to police monitoring, but that had ended by the time of his latest offence.
Judge Bright said: "You are someone who has a sexual interest in young girls and an entrenched history in sexual offending, putting your own sexual gratifications before the rights and feelings of young girls.
"You are without doubt a dangerous offender. You pose a significant risk to members of the public, and young girls in particular. The danger is so great that it is not possible for me to release you into the community.
"Imprisonment for the public protection is the only course for me to take."
Fitzgerald was sentenced to three-and-a-half years imprisonment for the historic sexual assaults, and two years for the sexual assault last year, to run consecutively.
However, under the public protection order he could spend the rest of his life in prison - only being released when he is no longer deemed a danger to the public - but must serve at least half of his sentence.
Upon his release he will be put on licence for a minimum of ten years.