Female teaching assistant jailed for having sex with pupil, 14, in supermarket car park

9 March 2022, 20:57

Hannah Harris, 23, has been sentenced to six years.
Hannah Harris, 23, has been sentenced to six years. Picture: Facebook

By Sophie Barnett

A female teaching assistant has been jailed for six years for having sex with a 14-year-old pupil in a supermarket car park after "grooming" him and "buying him his favourite sweets".

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Hannah Harris, 23, developed a relationship with the boy who was a pupil at a school in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, where she worked.

Harris, who was 21 at the time, tricked the boy's parents by texting them claiming to be the mother of his fictional girlfriend, St Albans Crown Court heard.

The teaching assistant, of Harrier Mill, Henlow, in Bedfordshire, also exchanged messages with the boy on social media and met up with him outside of school hours.

She drove him to supermarkets "to buy him his favourite sweets", taking him to McDonald's and letting him smoke cannabis in her car.

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, the court heard.

The boy's older brother found out about the relationship in January 2020 and his parents soon became aware.

The 23-year-old, who sobbed as she was handed her sentence, denied four charges of sexual activity with a child in December 2019 and January 2020.

She was convicted on February 7 of one count of having sex with the boy in a supermarket car park.

Harris' behaviour was described as an "abuse of trust" by Judge Caroline Wigin, who jailed her for six years on Wednesday.

The judge told Harris: "Your conduct has had a devastating effect upon the life of that young man."

She said she found that Harris' behaviour "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."

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 will serve half her sentence in custody and the remainder on licence, and will also be placed on the sex offenders register "indefinitely".

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