Shamed former school teacher made friends with girl on Facebook before abusing her

This Is Lancashire: JAILED: Mark Harrison JAILED: Mark Harrison

A FORMER teacher struck up a relationship with a schoolgirl on social networking site Facebook before sexually abusing her.

Mark Harrison, aged 49, of Stanley Road, Whitefield, was jailed for 30 months after he was convicted of one count of grooming a child and four counts of sexual activity with a child.

Harrison had been a maths teacher at St Monica’s RC High School in Prestwich for 17 years, but contact with the 14-year-old victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, only developed after he left there in December, 2012.

At Friday’s sentencing hearing at Bolton Crown Court, Judge Peter Davies told Harrison: “This girl developed a crush on you.

“It was up to you to say ‘no’ because you were her role model and you should have been her advisor — not her abuser.”

The court heard how Harrison began what Judge Davies described as “what can only be called a relationship” with the girl online using Facebook and they would then text each other for sometimes 22 hours a day.

Harrison confessed his love for the girl and said he hoped that they could one day be together.

They met at his house on two occasions — May 5 and May 11 this year — and sexual activity took place.

Later, the girl told a member of the school staff and Harrison was arrested. He admitted the five charges at an earlier hearing.

Judge Davies explained the starting point for the sentence tariff was four years, but he had to give Harrison one-third off due to his guilty pleas and sparing his victim a trial. He was made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for 10 years.

The judge also acknowledged that good references from friends, family and members of the community had shown that Harrison had been a man of integrity during 17 years of teaching at St Monica’s.

Addressing Harrison, Judge Davies said: “You were the adult and she was the child.

“It was for you to show the responsibility, for you to keep her away from you, to say ‘no’ and desist her.

“When you are 14 years old and have had sexual activity with a 49-year-old the impact is inevitable. The psychological trauma will be intense and the extent of it will not be known for some time.”

Defence counsel Geoff Whelan said: “Before these offences, he was a man of exemplary character. It’s abundantly clear that when he was a teacher, he was a very good teacher.

“He will bitterly regret this for the rest of his life.

“In effect, he has thrown away his life’s work.”

After the hearing, Det Sgt Louise Bentley, of Bury Police, said: “The victim’s emotional and physical wellbeing has been affected as has her school work.

“It is not an overstatement to say she has suffered enormously as a result of the abuse carried out by Harrison.

“While he fully admitted what had happened on interview, he sought to minimise his responsibility and tried to blame the victim.

“As an experienced former teacher and middle-aged man, I find such sentiments to be insulting to the victim and others in the profession.”

A spokesman for St Monica’s RC High School said: “We are pleased the victim felt able to disclose this matter to those responsible for safeguarding in the school and that they were able to work with the multi-agency investigation in securing a conviction in this case.

“The school is committed to working with the highest possible standards, creating a safe and caring environment for all members of the school community.”

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