Febuary 2012

Bristol school assistant jailed for sexual relationship with vulnerable pupil

A LEARNING assistant who had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old pupil has been jailed for three years.

The married father-of-three “coerced” the “vulnerable” anorexic into continuing their secret liaisons, Bristol Crown Court heard.

Judge Michael Longman told tearful Ian Payter: “You must have realised how inappropriate this relationship was.” He added: “There could never have been an informed and genuine consensual relationship between the two of you.”

Payter, 38, from Keynsham, who was “highly regarded” by friends and colleagues, admitted four counts of sexual activity with a child under 18 while he was in a position of trust.

Prosecuting, Jason Taylor said Payter was working as an education learning assistant at a Bristol school for children with medical or mental health problems. He started spending more time with one girl in particular – 21 years his junior – and would often give her a lift home.

Mr Taylor said staff noticed that she started dressing more provocatively and wearing more make-up.

Mr Taylor said Payter, a good local cricketer, sent numerous text messages to the girl, some of which were sexually explicit. He also said Payter had threatened self-harm if she ended their relationship.

During a one-to-one session, the girl told a tutor she had a boyfriend who was a lot older. That information was passed on to social services.

The head teacher at the school also became concerned and held a meeting emphasising to staff what behaviour was expected of them.

Payter was not at that meeting but read the minutes and was “obviously concerned”, the court heard.

When the head teacher became aware Payter was having marital problems and had been sleeping in his car, he stopped contracting him from the agency he worked for.

When the teenager introduced him to her parents, they asked him to leave their house and she broke down in tears, saying she loved him. A week later he was reported to the police.

Mr Taylor said the relationship and its aftermath had damaged her mental health, leading to self harm and a suicide attempt. He said the prosecution accepted there was a degree of consent on the girl’s behalf

Mitigating, Tabitha Macfarlane said her client had behaved “disgracefully” and let his wife, his children and his parents down.

But she said it was a relationship, at one point, of “genuine affection”.

“His life has now been completely ruined by his own foolish actions,” she said. “This is a man who is truly remorseful.”

Described as an “honest” and “trustworthy” family man, Payter was an upstanding member of Keynsham cricket club for many years and later played for Whitchurch.

But Judge Longman said his behaviour had had a “devastating” on the pupil.

He banned him from working with children, ordered him to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register and abide by a Sexual Offences Prevention Order.