A boy with his hands full: James, then 13, pictured with twin daughters Leah and Louise and his 17-year-old girlfriend Sarah
When 12-year-old James Sutton got a 16-year-old girl pregnant, the consensus was that their relationship would be lucky to last five minutes.
Yet eight years later, he and Sarah Drinkwater are still together – in a home of their own.
Her first pregnancy resulted in twin girls and they also have a two-year-old daughter.
And while James regrets having achieved the dubious honour of being Britain’s youngest father of twins, he is proud and delighted to have proved the doubters wrong.
Far from existing on benefits, the couple are both determined to better themselves for the sake of their children.
James, now 21, has spent the last five years working full-time for a construction company and his partner is studying hard for a university degree and working as a pharmaceutical researcher.
Between them they are earning a decent living and have bought a £100,000 house in Moston, Manchester, to give their children a secure home. The twins, Leah and Louise, seven, are doing well in school and the arrival of two-year-old Ellie has brought the couple even closer.
It is a long way from the doom and gloom predicted by many when Sarah discovered she was pregnant by her 12-year-old boyfriend.
James said: “We want to build a good future for our children and I want them to enjoy their childhood and learn from the mistakes I made. I adore my children and my life now, but at 13 I was too young to become a dad.
“If I could do it again I’d have waited until I was in my 20s because I missed out on my own childhood.”
He added: “I’d warn any teenager thinking about having sex and kids at 13 to think long and hard about it. It’s hard work.”
Sarah, who is studying for a degree in human biology and health sciences at Salford University, said she too was pleased that their enduring relationship had confounded their critics.
“Nobody thought James and I could ever achieve what we have done,” said the 24-year-old.
“We might have been young when the girls were born but there was no way I was going to scrounge off the government.
“I could easily have put my feet up and lived off benefits in a grotty flat, but I wanted the best for my children. I didn’t want to scrimp and scrape and I wanted to set an example to my girls.”
Their proudest moment was getting the keys to their three-bedroom home and the couple are planning to marry. They rarely go out with friends as most of their wages go towards paying the mortgage, but they feel they have got their priorities right.
Sarah added: “The thing that gives me happiness is knowing my girls are provided for and looked after.”
Unsurprisingly, life has not been plain sailing for the couple, who struggled to adjust to their new lives as parents after moving into a council house together in Gorton.
James had intended to continue his education but eventually left school without taking his GCSEs because of his persistent truancy.
He was also due to lecture other schoolchildren in Manchester about the dangers of underage sex but failed to attend.
The couple say they were both forced to grow up very quickly after the arrival of the twins but believe the hardest days are behind them.
They have not ruled out having another child and Mr Sutton says he would really like a boy.
“We are planning to try for another but for the moment we’re happy with what we have. I love my family so much but I should have waited until I was older.”
Last month the UN said Britain was the worst place in the developed world to be a child and condemned the high teenage pregnancy rate.
Around 9,000 girls under the age of 16 give birth each year in the UK despite a recent £150 million government campaign.