Ex-teaching assistant jailed for child sex offences

A FORMER teaching assistant from a high school in the region was sentenced to three years in jail for sex offences on teenage girls.

Liam Reed, who worked at Diss High School, pleaded guilty yesterday to six counts of grooming and six counts of sexual activity with girls aged between 13 and 15.

Reed, of Cricks Walk in Roydon, was already serving a two-year prison sentence for having explicit photographs of children on his mobile phone and enticing two girls into a “virtual” sexual relationship but more cases came to light after coverage in the local press.

Norwich Crown Court heard when he was sentenced for the initial crimes in January that he had struck up a virtual relationship with a 13-year-old girl from north Yorkshire and a 14-year-old from Humberside after chatting to them on a social networking site.

The new charges only came to light after coverage of the first cases in newspapers, includingour sister paper the Eastern Daily Press, gave six local victims the courage to come forward to police and tell their own stories.

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He had groomed all six girls during 2008 using social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo and by sending them text messages.

He took the girls out in his car and convinced them to let him kiss and hug them. In one case he had sex with one of the girls who was under 16.

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Although many of the offences took place while Reed was employed by Diss High School as a teaching assistant, the school has said that a full CRB check was carried out when he was initially hired and that references were requested. All had come back clear.

Malcolm Robbins, prosecuting, told Norwich Crown Court yesterday that Reed had struck up relationships with the girls online first, before asking them to meet in real life.

He had taken some out in his car, one to the cinema and met others at their homes while their parents were out.

He hugged and kissed several and sent one girl text messages asking her to send him naked pictures of herself.

The court heard that several of the girls had been in vulnerable positions at the time and had been deeply affected by the incidents.

Jacqueline Matthews-Stroud, mitigating, said that Reed left school at 16 with just two GCSEs, but wanted to go into education, so took an NVQ in childcare before starting work at the school.

She said that he suffered from low self-esteem and self-confidence, partly stemming from the weight problem that affected him at the time, and that attention from teenage girls had been flattering for him.

“He accepts that the harm caused by these offences is serious,” she said. “This is a young man who’s coming to terms with what he’s done.”

Judge Peter Jacobs said: “It was the publicity in the local paper here that caused these other victims to pluck up the courage to come forward.”

He added that the fact Reed was a “quasi-teacher” at the time of the offences was an aggravating factor, and that the offences were “very, very disturbing”.

“You are a man who an awful lot of police forces will be watching very, very closely indeed,” he said. “You’re walking on ice now.”

He handed down concurrent prison sentences for each of the 12 offences, the longest of which was three years.

Reed will serve these three years starting from yesterday, which will override his previous sentence.

Reed was also placed on the Sex Offenders Register for life and is banned from working with children indefinitely.

Det Con Jo Polley, from Norfolk police’s Vulnerable People Directorate, said: “As a classroom assistant, this man was in a position of trust which he abused.

“The victims and witnesses in this case have been immensely brave in coming forward and this investigation is not only a warning to others who may consider committing a similar offence but also shows that the constabulary will act positively to support victims who are vulnerable due to their age or circumstances.

“If a victim of abuse contacts us and wishes to discuss their situation, we will always endeavour to conduct a thorough investigation and to bring to justice those who abuse and mistreat children and other vulnerable people who have the right to be protected,” she added.

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