AN EIGHT-year-old St Neots girl has received a Sheriff s Award for her bravery in securing the conviction of an offender.

Ashleigh Allen, who was seven at the time, witnessed an assault while playing near her home in Duck Lane, St Neots on June 25, 2006.

AN EIGHT-year-old St Neots girl has received a Sheriff's Award for her bravery in securing the conviction of an offender.

Ashleigh Allen, who was seven at the time, witnessed an assault while playing near her home in Duck Lane, St Neots on June 25, 2006.

The suspect, who was arrested shortly afterwards, denied the severity of the assault and stated that he had only hit out in self defence. At this time it was it was one persons word against the other. Enquiries by officers revealed that there were two independent witnesses to the assault, one of whom was Ashleigh.

She gave a statement to police and subsequently gave evidence at a trial which concluded on September 27, 2006.

On attending Cambridge Crown Court to give evidence, despite measures to prevent it happening, Ashleigh came face to face with the offender. However, this did not deter her from giving her evidence.

Ashleigh stated in court that she had been playing in her front garden when she saw the offender get out of his car and hit the victim on the head with a metal bar. Ashleigh went into the house and told her mother what she had witnessed. Ashleigh was happy to assist with this investigation despite concerns by her parents.

The offender - Auldrin Airoll, 36 from Bedford Street, St Neots - was found guilty of actual bodily harm. On October 31, 2006 Judge Hawkesworth sentenced him to 21 months imprisonment, minus the 58 days he spent remanded in custody.

Judge Hawkesworth considered Ashleigh¿s conduct to merit a Sheriff's Award and a payment of £250 under the Reward Order Scheme in recognition for giving evidence immaculately. Having viewed such a violent incident, he considered it a very brave and public spirited thing to do.

Chief Constable Julie Spence said: "The brave actions of Ashleigh helped secure the conviction of a violent offender.

"To do our job effectively we need people to be witnesses and Ashleigh is a great role model for both young and old alike. Without her help a guilty person may well have gone unpunished. We need more people like her."

Ashleigh and her parents - Sandra and Brian Allen were at an awards ceremony at Hinchingbrooke Performing Arts Centre on Monday (October 29) evening to collect her award.