Teaching assistant who had sex with 14-year-old pupil in supermarket car park is jailed

Hannah Harris groomed the boy with sweets and take-aways

Tom Batchelor
Thursday 10 March 2022 15:55

A teaching assistant who had sex with a 14-year-old pupil in a supermarket car park has been jailed for six years.

Hannah Harris, 23, tricked the boy’s parents by claiming to be the mother of the boy’s fictional girlfriend, St Albans Crown Court heard.

Harris, who was 21 at the time, groomed the boy who was a pupil at a school in Hertfordshire, where she worked.

The 23-year-old denied four charges of sexual activity with a child in December 2019 and January 2020.

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

The court heard how the teaching assistant and the boy had exchanged social media messages and met up outside of school, which included her driving him to supermarkets “to buy him his favourite sweets”, taking him to McDonald’s and letting him smoke cannabis in her car.

The court also heard that 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.

Harris was caught when the boy’s older brother found out what was going on in January 2020, and his parents soon became aware.

Judge Caroline Wigin jailed Harris for six years on Wednesday and placed her on the sex offenders register “indefinitely”.

“Your conduct has had a devastating effect upon the life of that young man,” the judge told Harris.

She said she found that Harris’s behaviour was an “abuse of trust” and “constituted grooming”.

“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.”

The 23-year-old began sobbing as the judge handed down the sentence.

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.

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, from Harrier Mill, Henlow, in Bedfordshire, will serve half of the six-year sentence in custody and the remainder of the sentence on licence.

Additional reporting by PA

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