County Durham Teaching Assistant Avoids Jail

20 November 2014, 17:50 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50

A teaching assistant from County Durham has walked free from court after she was cleared of having sex with one of her pupils.

35 year old Helen Turnbull, 35, wept uncontrollably in the dock as jurors cleared her of three counts of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust.

She had pleaded guilty to a fourth count of sexual activity which involved kissing.

Anne Richardson, in mitigation, said:
"She has suffered greatly for this utterly foolish and out of character behaviour.

She cannot teach again and has lost the job she loves. She has also lost custody of her two children and her eldest will not see her because of her actions.

This is not a woman who has enveilled in her web a succession of young school boys.

She could be put to good work in the community because of her literacy skills."

Judge Peter Armstrong sentenced Turnbull to four months imprisonment, suspended for two years, for the count she pleaded guilty to.

She will also be required to complete 200 hours of unpaid work, sign the sex offenders register for seven years and was made subject of a restraining order.

He told Turnbull:
"You became emotionally and physically involved with a boy aged 16 who was a pupil at the school where you worked.

There was elements of grooming and it was not just a spontaneous coming-together on the twelfth of June.

The kiss as you would describe it "necking on", was not a friendly peck on the cheek.

You went to a private place in an industrial estate in your Mini motor car.

The jury's verdict shows nothing occurred other than that."

During the trial, the literacy assistant, of Church View, Haswell, admitted that she secretly met the boy, who was 16-years-old at the time, but that they had only shared a kiss.

Teesside Crown Court was told the mum-of-two flirted with the pupil via Facebook and IMessages because she was unhappy in her marriage and was flattered by the compliments that he paid her.

The pair arranged to meet at a crisp factory on an industrial estate where they kissed in the front seat of her Mini convertible.

Turnbull said of their meeting:
"I was not about anything physical or a physical relationship.

It was about the things he said and how me made me feel. I wanted to see what he had been getting up to since he went on study leave.

I sent the sexualised messages because that was what he wanted.

I was on my own every night so it was the instancy of receiving the messages at a time when I was very down."