An American airman was sentenced Friday to 12 years in jail for raping three teenage British girls. Prosecutors said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. James Gardner took advantage of vulnerable girls who lived in a children's home near the U.S. base at Menwith Hill in northern England, where he was stationed.

Gardner, 34, claimed the girls had consented to sex. But a jury convicted him last month of five counts of rape, two counts of sexual assault and another of attempted rape. The victims were three girls aged 14, 15 and 17.

Passing sentence at York Crown Court, judge Peter Hoffman told Gardner: "You took advantage of these young girls."

Hoffman said Gardner's exemplary service record made him "a credit" to the U.S. Air Force.

"You have lost all that, I'm afraid, by these convictions," the judge said.

Hoffman ordered that Gardner should be deported once he had served his sentence.

His hometown was not immediately available and it was not clear if he would appeal