Lecturer jailed for student affair

A college lecturer who had a six-month relationship with a teenage student was today jailed for eight months.

Mark Mullis began the affair with the 17-year-old while working at the further education college in Trowbridge, Wiltshire.

Swindon Crown Court heard that the girl had "come on to" Mullis and had "hounded him" by text - even sending the defendant indecent pictures of herself.

The girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, described the six-month relationship as "fun" and said it was "just sex".

Mullis met the teenager in the smoking shelter at Wiltshire College, where he taught practical skills.

She told police: "He gave me a lift home and I came on to him. I just keep hounding him really.

"It was always me that came on to him. It was me that started everything.

"I may be 17 but I am a very mature 17-year-old. It was me that was inappropriate really. He was always professional to me at college

"I don't at all feel like a victim either. It was just fun. That was what it was, just sex."

The court was told that at first Mullis, who did not teach the girl, did not know she was a student at the college but must have realised "quite quickly" that she went there.

The relationship began in early 2009 and lasted six months before briefly re-uniting a year later, the court was told.

Prosecutor Colin Meeke said: "It has always been the Crown's case that he must have been pretty aware quite quickly.

"He got to know her very well. It was not long before she obtained his mobile number and began sending him texts.

"Certainly he taught some of her friends and there must have been some awareness of that.

"It is right to say from an early stage she 'set her cap' at the defendant and she made all the running.

"That does not excuse the fact that once he was aware that she was a student at the college he should not have continued and allowed the matters to continue in the way they did.

"She asked him for lifts. She, in her words, 'hounded him' by text and she pushed it a lot further.

"Quite quickly she started sending him photographs of her private parts."

Mr Meeke described the teenager as "somewhat naive" and added: "The relationship moved on, becoming a sexual one with her full agreement

"It is abundantly clear that he also showed those private photographs she had sent him to other people, which caused a rift between them."

At an earlier hearing, Mullis, of Trowbridge, Wiltshire, pleaded guilty to two charges of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust.

Marcus Tregilgas-Davey, defending, said it was the girl who had instigated the relationship and it was one of "genuine affection".

"When the sexual relationship began he didn't realise she was a student," he said.

"I accept that, shortly afterwards, he must have become aware and that was the basis of the plea, which was accepted by the Crown.

"If you read through her statement, there is no sense that she was used, abused or a victim.

"She was not vulnerable, she was not harmed psychologically and she refused to make a victim impact statement."

Mr Tregilgas-Davey said the relationship had been very costly to 40-year-old Mullis.

"His professional life is in tatters and is ruined. It is clear he is never going to teach again in a college or work as a tutor," he said.

The barrister said Mullis had started at the college as a caretaker but, having taken professional qualifications, worked his way up to become a tutor.

"He was very proud of being a tutor and the sad thing is that he was clearly a very good tutor," he said.

Mr Tregilgas-Davey said that, at the time Mullis committed the offences, his marriage of 21 years had just ended and his mother had died.

"His transgression lies in that very difficult period," he said.

"His personal life is in tatters and lies ruined around him. He was very close to his daughter and she no longer speaks to him."

Deputy Circuit Judge Lester Boothman said the appropriate sentence for the case was 12 months' imprisonment but, having taken into account an early guilty plea, he would reduce that to eight months.

"I accept all the points that have been made in mitigation," he told Mullis.

"The relationship was consensual and I accept that you didn't know to begin with that she was a student.

"The law makes it clear that people in a position of trust must not do what you did. It must be perfectly well known in your profession that you must not do this."

A spokeswoman for Wiltshire College said: "He was suspended as soon as we became aware of the situation. He is no longer an employee of Wiltshire College."