A children’s charity has applauded a judge for handing down a 35-year jail sentence to a sex offender, claiming that the penalty showed that child sexual abuse is now being taken seriously.

Debi Ray-Rivers, the executive director of Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, also praised the courage of Locksley Cummings’s two victims — sisters who were both aged about 8 when the attacks started.

Cummings, 43, must serve at least half of his term – 17½ years – before he is eligible for parole and will serve a ten-year supervision order when he is eventually released.

At a sentencing hearing on Monday, Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams described Cummings as a “vile monster”, adding that his crimes — spread over more than a decade — were some of the worst she had ever seen.

Responding to the sentence, Ms Ray-Rivers said: “There are no words to describe what these two little girls had to endure at the hands of Cummings. These two children are to be commended for their courage in sharing details of their pain caused by this man.

“Because of their testimony and their bravery, Locksley Cummings will not have access to another child for at least 17½ years — and hopefully more.

“We thank our Justice Shade Subair Williams for the sensitivity shown to the children and for what we deem the most appropriate ruling with this case.

“What this case highlights is the progress we have made in this country when it comes to dangerous child sex offenders and the seriousness of child sexual abuse.

“Last week we saw a child sex offender sentenced to 16 years for sexually violating a child, where 18 years ago a child sex offender would’ve been sentenced to 16 months.

“This case highlights that we in Bermuda are taking child sexual abuse seriously.“

Ms Ray-Rivers said the case confirmed much about what has been learnt about child sexual abuse.

She noted that Locksley was known to his victims and was in a position of trust, had told his victims not to tell anyone about the attacks, and that he did not stop with just one victim.

Ms Ray-Rivers also thanked authorities for investigating the attacks and securing a conviction.

She praised the courts for allowing video testimony, which reduced any trauma the victims might have experienced had they testified in court.

Ms Ray-Rivers said: “Do we still have work to do? Yes. We need to have the most effective child sex offender treatment available at Westgate and strict licence conditions upon each predator’s release so that the children of Bermuda are protected.

“We must continue to ensure that the children of this country are kept safe from released child sex offenders and make sure we do everything in our power to reduce risk of that happening.

“We hope and pray that this family continue to receive the healing and ongoing love and support they deserve, so that their scars can heal over time.

Police have also welcomed the “historic” sentence, claiming that it sent “an unequivocal message” that sex crimes “will have significant consequences”.

Sean Field-Lament, the Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime), said: “The circumstances which led to these convictions were despicable and heinous.

“They involved the betrayal by a person of trust to young vulnerable victims. The 35-year sentence sends an unequivocal message that offences of this nature have no place in our society and will have significant consequences.

“Hopefully, it will serve as a strong deterrent.”

He added: “Most importantly, I hope it brings some form of closure and comfort to the victims and family involved in this tragedy and that their healing process can continue, confident in the fact that they will not now have to encounter this individual.

Mr Field-Lament praised their courage in coming forward to the police.

He said: “These cases are extremely emotive and require the highest professional standards to investigate and ultimately prosecute.

“I recognise the tremendous work done by the detectives of the Vulnerable Persons Unit and the Department of Public Prosecutions team in bringing this perpetrator to justice.

“Their hard work and dedication demonstrates our steadfast resolve to protect the most vulnerable in our society.”