A nursery assistant involved in a paedophile ring was jailed yesterday for a string of child sexual assaults and sharing images of the abuse online. Vanessa George, 39, was handed an indeterminate sentence for reasons of public protection and told she must serve at least seven years.
The judge, Mr Justice John Royce, said her crimes had "plumbed new depths of depravity". One of her accomplices, Angela Allen, 39, a former prostitute, was also given an indeterminate sentence and told she will be in jail for at least five years.
It emerged that George, who worked at Little Ted's nursery in Plymouth, had failed to provide police with a reliable list of all her victims, meaning some parents still do not know how or whether their children were assaulted.
The judge dismissed defence claims that George was unable to produce the names because she "acted on the spur of the moment" when abusing babies and toddlers in her care. He said the offences were committed so casually that "you make it sound like she was having a cup of coffee".
Sentencing George, a mother of two children, and Allen, the judge said they would be released only if they no longer posed a threat to children. There were shouts of "yes" from the public gallery – where George's husband Andrew was also sitting – when Mr Justice Royce warned the pair they could spend "the rest of their days behind bars". Spectators screamed and swore at George as she was led from the dock to begin her sentence.
George and Allen were involved in a paedophile ring with Colin Blanchard, 38, who they met on Facebook. All three pleaded guilty to a string of child sex offences earlier this year. They never actually met, but recorded their attacks on mobile phones and swapped the images through emails.
Blanchard's sentencing has been adjourned until a later date because he may face further charges, Bristol Crown Court was told. The father of one, of Smithy Bridge, near Rochdale, has pleaded guilty to 17 child pornography counts and two child sex assaults, and admitted a further charge of possessing extreme pornography.
The court heard that George became obsessed with Blanchard, a computer salesman, after contacting him on a Facebook dating application called "Are you interested".
Allen, of Nottingham, carried out four assaults and shared an indecent image after she also met Blanchard online.
The judge said: "This case has caused widespread revulsion and incredulity. It has rocked the city of Plymouth but the shockwaves extend much further, perhaps to every nursery school in the country."
Turning to George, he added: "You gave parents who entrusted their children to your care every reason to believe they would be safe. How grossly did you abuse their trust. What you did plumbed new depths of depravity."
After the hearing, one parent with a child at the nursery said: "Hearing what was done to our babies, you end up with mental images. You can't sleep or eat. It affects your relationship but hopefully now we can start to rebuild our lives. I can go home tonight and cuddle my child knowing they're safe."