Teaching assistant jailed for sex with pupils

Mike Hornby
Monday 22 November 2010 13:21 GMT

A female teaching assistant who had sex with two male pupils was jailed for 16 months today.

Hina Patel, 37, was supposed to be supervising the "disruptive" 15-year-olds but she quickly started flirting with them, Liverpool Crown Court was told.

Patel, who worked as a classroom assistant and swimming teacher at Birkdale High School near Southport, Merseyside, invited the youngsters back to her home where she had sex with one boy and the other a few hours later.

Patel, of Sandilands Grove, Hightown, Southport, admitted two counts of sexual activity with a child at North Sefton Magistrates last month.

At her sentencing today, Martin Decker, prosecuting, said the single mother of two was employed to provide support and supervision for pupils who had been disruptive in class.

Mr Decker said that was how she came to meet the two Year 11 boys in February this year and during a one-to-one supervision she exchanged mobile phone numbers with them.

Describing an exchange of text messages between Patel and one of the boys, Mr Decker said: "Initially she was being friendly and saying he was a 'good lad' but after about four days the content became sexual."

At the same time the other boy was also exchanging text messages with the teacher, Mr Decker said.

"The boy described the texts as being normal at first and then 'weird'," the barrister told the court.

"After about a week she invited the boys to her house."

Patel collected one boy in a hire car as the other made his own way to her home where they watched DVDs, Mr Decker told the court.

One of the boys, who cannot be named because of their ages, decided to go to the toilet and when he finished he met Patel on the stairs from where she led him to the bedroom, the barrister said.

"In his police interview the boy said she started touching him and kissing him and this led to sexual intercourse," Mr Decker said.

"The boy was asked how he felt about this and he replied that it felt 'weird'."

The youngster left the house about an hour later leaving Patel alone with the other boy.

He told police he waited at the house while Patel went to her second job - working behind the bar at the nearby Formby Hall Golf Club - and when she returned they had sex and he spent the night.

The next morning she got up to go to work and gave the boy £5 to get the train home.

The pair arranged to meet on a second occasion but the boy changed his mind after Patel picked him up and got out of her car, Mr Decker said.

He told a friend he had sex with Patel and the friend was later arrested after burgling the teacher's home.

That boy told Youth Justice officials about Patel's relationship with her pupils and the police raided her house.

They seized her mobile phone which contained text messages from the boys which included, "the police know everything", and "don't tell people".

Both boys had a poor disciplinary record at school and one of them had juvenile convictions, Mr Decker told the court.

Patrick Williamson, defending, said Patel was "feeling shame and remorse".

He described her as a good mother of two boys and a hard worker.

As well as her jobs at the school and golf club, she was also studying for two post-graduate qualifications, Mr Williamson said.

"However, she has little self esteem and little sense of self worth," he told the court.

Patel had suffered emotional problems after being separated from her parents when she was just a few months old and sent to live with her grandmother in India until she was six.

She had also split up with her husband and, following the collapse of another relationship, she was diagnosed with depression by her GP.

Mr Williamson said: "She took decisions which were completely inappropriate.

"The contact she had with those boys should not have led to what it did."

Judge John Rogers said he accepted the defence's argument that Patel's behaviour was "out of character".

But he added: "I have no hesitation whatsoever in coming to the conclusion that these offences were so serious only an immediate custodial sentence can be justified."

Patel, wearing a black suit, dabbed her nose with a tissue as she was jailed for 16 months for each of the two offences, to be served concurrently.

She was also made subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order which bans her from working with children under the age of 16, being alone in the company of children under the age of 16 - apart from her own children - and bans her from using social networking sites to contact children.

Patel was suspended from the school when the allegations came to light and has since been sacked.

Gary Loveridge, head teacher of Birkdale High School, said Patel was never employed as a swimming teacher by the school and did that job separately to her work at Birkdale.

"The way she wormed her way into the lives of these boys is disgusting," Mr Loveridge said.

"She betrayed the trust placed in her and I am pleased she has received a custodial sentence because it sends a message that this behaviour will not be tolerated."

Sergeant Colin Briscoe, of the family crime investigation unit of Merseyside Police, said: "Patel abused her position of trust to carry out these crimes against two young boys.

"I hope the sentence handed down brings them and their families some sense of justice.

"This was a very thorough investigation by officers of Sefton family crime unit. I would like to thank all of those officers and the Crown Prosecution Service who have worked so hard to bring this woman to justice.

"The sentencing today should send a message to those who are in our positions of trust that if they abuse those positions of trust, they will be held accountable and responsible.

"Merseyside Police takes crimes of this nature very seriously and we would encourage anyone who has been a victim of abuse to come forward and report it to us with the confidence that they will be well supported."

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