A BRADFORD secondary school teacher has been jailed for grooming a 16-year-old pupil before taking her virginity in an “abuse of trust”.
Jonathan Firth, 33, began a “wholly inappropriate” relationship with the teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, by taking her to cafes,
sending her naked pictures of himself, and inviting her to his parents’ house, where they eventually had sex.
Bradford Crown Court heard today that after hearing that the girl liked him, Firth sent her messages via social media sites Twitter and Snapchat, while telling her to keep their relationship a “secret”.
He was jailed for 21 months after admitting three counts of sexual activity with a child and one count of causing a child to engage in sexual activity as a person in a position of trust, between October and November last year.
Prosecutor Rebecca Young told the court that at the time of starting the relationship with the pupil, Firth, from Bradford, was Working at a high school as a cover supervisor, teaching English and Healthcare.
“The situation found him to be very informal and he engaged with pupils in gossip about other teachers,” said Miss Young.
“When she returned to do her A-levels she told her friends that she liked the teacher. They told him she wanted to speak to him and when she spoke to him she told him she liked him.
“He contacted her over Twitter and Snapchat and sent naked photos of himself getting in and out of the shower, but she didn’t want to reciprocate.
“In October they started to meet up and met in a café so people didn’t see them and then she started to go round to his house.”
Miss Young told the court that the girl went round to Firth’s home, where he lived with his parents, eight or nine times, and while there they would watch films, kiss and hold hands.
However, she said that the end of November, the relationship became sexual, after Firth “provisionally told her that he would wait for her to give him a sign to say she was ready”.
The court heard the relationship came to an end after the teenager revealed to her mother how old her “boyfriend” was, and Firth “seemed to panic” and stopped speaking to her.
Miss Young explained that the girl then started a relationship with someone her own age, who told a teacher at the school. The teacher confirmed she already had concerns about Firth’s relationship with many of the other pupils.
“She saw him appear to be flirty with a number of 15 and 16 year old girls,” she said.
Firth was suspended from his job at the school, and resigned immediately, the court heard.
In a victim impact statement read out to the court, the girl said what had happened has had “a huge impact on her day-to-day life and on reflection she feels she was taken advantage of”.
She admitted being “excited” by having to keep it a secret and by the fact she had a crush on him, but has since found it hard to keep up with a work, and found people were talking about her at school and on social media.
Reading the statement, Miss Young said: “She feels as though she is being punished for what happened, even though she’s told she hasn’t done anything wrong.”
The court heard that during his relationship with the girl, Firth was also in a four-year ongoing relationship with another teacher.
Defending Firth, Dale Brook, said references given to the court by friends and family described him as a “caring, thoughtful, decent man”.
“It was a wholly inappropriate relationship that he should not have engaged in,” said Mr Brook.
“He has always expressed remorse that any of this happened.
“It came at a time when he was low and the attention and affection she showed to him was flattering.
“His history of mental illness and his history of being low is no excuse but it’s an explanation as to how he ended up doing what he obviously should never have done.”
Firth stood in the dock with his head bowed as he was jailed by Judge Jonathan Rose.
The judge said: “It’s mysterious why, when you had a relationship, you should seek a sexual relationship with someone I regard as being a child.
“You were a man of education, intelligence and training, and you are certainly aware of how inappropriate a relationship of this type was.
“Anybody engaging in the profession of providing education should recognise the vulnerability of a situation which may be sustainable to the charms of another person.
“This offence was not merely an abuse of trust but a taking advantage of the feelings held by this child.
“You must understand the high position of trust in which teachers and those involved in school education are held. Trust is held in them by parents but also by children.
“There’s an expectation that children will be safe and come to no harm when at school.
“She was inexperienced in sexual matters and she was a virgin and you took from her the gift of her virginity.
She will forever know it was taken in a criminal act.”
Firth was also handed a ten-year sexual offences prevention order and ordered to pay a £100 victim surcharge.