Teaching assistant from Felixstowe admits sex charges

James Heathcote

James Heathcote - Credit: Archant

A 26-year-old teaching assistant at a Colchester secondary school has admitted inciting two girls to engage in sexual activity.

James Heathcote, of Parkeston Road, Felixstowe, entered his guilty pleas to two charges when he appeared before Chelmsford Crown Court for a nine-minute hearing yesterday.

Heathcote was at St Helena School secondary school at the time of the offences.

He admitted causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity by a person in a position of trust.

Heathcote also pleaded guilty to the same offence in relation to a second girl.

He denied a third charge of sexual activity while in a position of trust by sexual touching involving kissing one of the girls on the mouth.

Prosecutor Valerie Charvit told the court the prosecution had been notified by Heathcote’s defence team last week that he would be admitting the offences.

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She said the pleas were acceptable to the Crown Prosecution Service after it had made enquiries with the families of his victims.

His Honour Judge Gratwicke, honorary recorder of Chelmsford, said he accepted that the sexual touching charge would now lie on file.

The court was told Heathcote had no previous convictions or police cautions.

Peter Barlex, representing Heathcote, made an application for the case to be adjourned for a pre-sentence report.

Mr Barlex said: “I’m not sure how long the sentencing hearing will take. There’s a lot of information I would like to present.”

Heathcote’s sentencing is likely to take place some time on, or after March 16.

The court heard there may also be an application for a sexual offences prevention order against him.

Heathcote had been on conditional bail before the hearing.

Judge Gratwicke added two further conditions telling Heathcote he must reside at his home address and to comply with the requirements of the probation service in attending any meeting which related to the compiling of his pre-sentence report.

Heathcote was also told he must not leave the courtroom until he had signed the Sex Offenders’ Register.

A statement issued by St Helena School after the hearing read: “The defendant is no longer an employee of St Helena School, having been dismissed.

“The safety and wellbeing of students is the school’s top priority and the school followed all the correct and required procedures in its pre-employment checks.

“As soon as a safeguarding concern was raised, the school alerted the police and local authority immediately and suspended the defendant. The school is not in a position to comment on the case any further.”

- We have been asked to point out that this case has no connection with James Heathcote, 36, of Colchester, a former languages teacher at the same school who shares the same name as the defendant. He left the school three years ago after working there for 12 years.