A judge has praised the bravery of a 13-year-old boy who found the courage to tell his parents and the police about how he was raped and abused.

The boy was only 12 when he was forced to take part in a series of sexual acts by a man with severe learning difficulties who approached him on a beach in North Devon.

Richard Marshall hung around sand dunes at Croyde beach and exposed himself to boys using the beach and a nearby skate park.

He raped the boy after forcing him to go down an alleyway near the skate park and ensured his silence by telling him he would be in trouble if anyone found out what he had done.

Marshall went on to make the boy take part in more sex acts by threatening to tell his parents. The boy was confused about what was happening but believed he would be blamed.

The boy was so disgusted that he felt sick on the days after the abuse and took time off school with an upset stomach.

He told friends about the abuse after attending sex education lessons at school which made him realise that he was the victim and that Marshall was the offender. His friends persuaded him to tell his parents, who called the police.

Marshall, aged 29, is a well known character in Croyde, where he used to hang around the beach and surf club. He has severe learning difficulties and local people assumed he was harmless until these offences came to light.

He was ruled to be unfit to plead at Exeter Crown Court so the jury were required to decide whether he had done the acts alleged, rather than reach a conventional verdict of guilty.

Marshall, of Pathfields, Croyde, was found to have committed two counts of rape, one of attempted rape, three of sexual activity in the presence of a child, and two of sexual activity with a child.

Recorder Mr Donald Tait adjourned his sentence and ordered reports about his condition, which will also examine how he can be cared for in the community without posing any further risk. He will be sentenced by a different judge on August 12.

He said: "The sentencing powers for these offences are relatively limited because of the defendant's particular difficulties, but the judge will sentence in due course in accordance with the law.

"This has been a rather unusual case but the three lads who the jury heard from seemed thoroughly decent young men and I hope the victim can put this behind him and get on with his life.

"He had the good sense, with the help of his friends, to tell his parents. So often, people do not do so for years and years and years and it haunts the rest of their lives, so he did the right thing."

Rachel Drake, prosecuting, said Marshall was a well known local character in Croyde, where he hung around the beach, surf club and skate park.

The victim went to the police after he told friends about the abuse and one of them revealed he had also seen Marshall exposing himself in dunes near the beach.

Miss Emily Pitts, defending, said probation and psychological will be needed before sentence.