Hertfordshire teaching assistant jailed after sex with 14-year-old pupil
- Credit: HERTS POLICE
A Hertfordshire teaching assistant has been jailed for six years for having sex with a 14-year-old pupil in a supermarket car park.
Hannah Harris, 23, developed a relationship with the boy who was a pupil at a school in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, where she worked.
St Albans Crown Court heard that Harris, who was 21 at the time, tricked the boy’s parents by texting them claiming to be the mother of the boy’s fictional girlfriend.
Harris and the boy also exchanged social media messages and met up outside of school, which included her driving him to supermarkets “to buy him his favourite sweets”, taking him to McDonald’s and letting him smoke cannabis in her car.
The court also heard that Harris had been warned at least twice by a fellow member of staff about “inappropriate conversations” and flirtatious behaviour, including an incident of “play fighting” with a pupil.
Harris was caught when the boy’s older brother found out about the relationship in January 2020 and his parents soon became aware.
The 23-year-old denied four charges of sexual activity with a child in December 2019 and January 2020.
But she was convicted on February 7 of one count of having sex with the boy in a supermarket car park.
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Judge Caroline Wigin jailed Harris for six years on Wednesday, adding that she would be placed on the sex offenders register “indefinitely”.
The judge told Harris: “Your conduct has had a devastating effect upon the life of that young man.”
She said she found that Harris’s behaviour was an “abuse of trust”, “constituted grooming” and “significant planning”.
“I find that you disregarded all the warnings that you had,” Judge Wigin said.
“You were well aware, I find, that his messages should have been screenshotted by you and reported to senior staff. You did not do that.”
The 23-year-old began sobbing as the judge handed down the sentence.
Before the sentencing, Julia Flanagan, defending, argued that the messages and trips had not been geared specifically towards facilitating a sexual relationship with the boy.
Judge Wigin cut in, saying: “It is utterly inappropriate to form any relationship of any kind,” before adding that Harris would have been aware of this from her training.
“She chose to disregard that. She chose to abuse this trust,” the judge added.
Ms Flanagan also argued that Harris did not “specifically target this particular boy” since he was the one who first messaged her and initially drove that communication.
The defence barrister added that a conviction of this kind “will follow her forever” and will be “a lifetime punishment for what she did.
“And she bitterly regrets that she became involved with (the boy) and she wanted me to tell the court that she did not intend to cause him any harm.”
Harris, from Harrier Mill, Henlow, in Bedfordshire, was jailed for six years at St Albans Crown Court, half of which she will serve in custody and the remainder of the sentence on licence.
She has also been placed on the sex offenders register “indefinitely”.