"I am utterly ashamed he has ever been a police officer," said Hertfordshire Constabulary's chief constable of a man jailed for more than 18 years after repeatedly raping a girl under the age of 13.

Hertfordshire police officer James Ford, 31, was found guilty last month of 10 counts of sexual abuse against the same child and jailed for 18 years and three months, with an extended licence period of one year.

The 10 counts are four counts of rape, four of sexual assault and two of causing or inciting a child under the age of 13 to engage in sexual activity.

Ford, who joined Herts police in December 2019 and was suspended in November 2021, was also found guilty of one count of perverting the course of justice by deliberately wiping information from his mobile phone.

The offences occurred between 2019 and 2021.

Hertfordshire Constabulary's chief constable, Charlie Hall, has now spoken out about Ford's "truly abhorrent behaviour".

"His offending has been a fundamental breach of the trust anyone should be able to place in any police officer, on or off duty," he said.

"He has also chosen to destroy data held on his mobile phone in a clear attempt to pervert the course of justice. This in itself is a dishonest act and clearly unbecoming of a police officer where honesty and integrity are paramount. It is a blatant and enormous breach of this standard of professional behaviour."

He emphasised that Ford's offending had "no direct connection with his duties as a police officer", but acknowledged "it is clearly of grave concern to the public that a police officer would behave in such a way, and his off-duty behaviour discredits the service."

Mr Hall said: "It is abhorrent and disgusting what he has done. I am utterly ashamed that he has ever been a police officer and I know the workforce as a whole in this constabulary will be equally appalled.

"Without any hesitation, I now dismiss him without notice from this constabulary. His name will also be added to the College of Policing barred list to ensure he can never be employed within policing again."

Ford will be placed on the Sex Offenders Register for life.

The judge also put a Sexual Harm Prevention Order in place, along with a restraining order to protect the victim.