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Friday, 28 November 2014

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Woman teacher groomed girl and abused position of trust

A woman teacher who groomed a girl and admitted sexual activity with her has dodged jail.

Hayley Louise Southwell photo
Hayley Louise Southwell

Hayley Southwell, 27, and her victim were “counting down the days” until the girl’s 16th birthday after which the relationship, which had started months before, turned sexual.

She appeared at Carlisle Crown Court having previously pleaded guilty to sexual touching while in a position of trust.

It happened while Southwell was working at Nelson Thomlinson School in Wigton. The victim is now a former pupil.

Gregory Hoare, prosecuting, told the court that the school had received messages about the relationship earlier this year.

On January 17, Southwell, of Birkby, near Maryport, was arrested and police searched her home.

Officers found a smartphone and tablet computer containing messages between her and the victim. These also contained a series of images and film clips. Some were of trips to places such as Alton Towers in Staffordshire, Glasgow and Nottingham.

But Mr Hoare said: “Many of these still and moving images were of an intimate, extreme sexual nature.”

He explained the relationship had started when the victim was 15-years-old and she had remained this age for its first six months.

“It is plain that they were, to use a phrase, counting down the days when the girl was 16 and thereafter sexual relations did occur,” Mr Hoare said. “In respect of a teaching career, it is, in effect, finished.”

Dave Polglase, defending, said: “All that she has worked hard for, all that she has achieved and all that she could have gone on to achieve is now lost to her. She will have to live with that forever.”

He also said that preliminary reports had praised her abilities and she had been brave to admit the crime after previously hiding her sexuality from “her mother and others”.

Mr Polglase described the relationship as “consensual” and added: “This wasn’t a case of grooming where a child was bombarded by unwanted texts of Facebook messages.”

Neither the victim nor her parents had made any statement against Southwell.

Judge Peter Hughes QC, presiding, said: “Adolescents, boys and girls, who are discovering and coming to terms with their sexuality are vulnerable to the affections of an older and sexually aware person, such as a teacher.”

Judge Hughes added that it was his opinion that Southwell had groomed her victim. “This was a relationship that began before this girl was 16-years-old and you and she were waiting for her to reach that birthday.”

He sentenced Southwell to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years.

She was also given an 12-month community order and must sign the sex offenders register for the next 10 years.

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