A FORMER teacher who was involved in a sexual relationship with a pupil over several months has narrowly avoided prison.
Gareth Aspey, 29, was given a 12 month jail sentence, suspended for two years, when he appeared at Bradford Crown Court yesterday.
Aspey, of Alkincoats Road, Colne, will have to carry out 200 hours unpaid work and sign the sex offenders’ register for 10 years, banning him from working with children.
He had previously admitted three charges of engaging in sexual activity with a teenage girl while in a position of trust as a teacher at Skipton Girls' High School.
Aspey, who taught physics, resigned last year after his relationship with the then 17-year-old was discovered.
The court heard that he had sex with the girl three times - in December 2012 and March and July last year.
On one occasion the teenager had told her parents she would be staying at a friend’s house, when she spent the night with him.
But the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, did not believe herself to be a victim and in a statement said she had 'no regrets' other than co-operating with the police.
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The court was told the relationship had started after Aspey returned to work at the school after being treated for cancer.
He had given the girl his phone number in relation to a school trip, and the two soon started sending 'jokey and personal texts'.
Aspey found out she had been self-harming, and on one occasion she texted him afterwards. She was alone at the time and a concerned Aspey went to see her. He spent the night with her, although the pair did not have sex.
Shortly afterwards the texts between the pair became more 'suggestive' and when the couple next spent the night together they had sex for the first time.
The girl had told her friends, and eventually the relationship was revealed to teachers and police were alerted. He resigned from his job in August last year.
In a police interview he said it was a mistake not leaving the job after his cancer treatment, as it 'took away his ability to deal with difficult emotional situations'.
He also considered himself a “vulnerable adult”.
The girl’s statement read by Judge Peter Benson confirmed she was a willing participant in the relationship.
It read: “He didn’t pursue me, I pursued him. I have no regrets. I wouldn’t have done anything differently apart from helping the police.”
Mitigating for Aspey, Clare Ashcroft, said he had not targeted the girl because of her mental health problems and was himself suffering from depression at the time.
Sentencing, Judge Benson told Aspey: “You were in a position of trust, and there should be boundaries between teachers and pupils.
“It is clear she was a willing participant in this activity, and she doesn’t feel like she was groomed by you. Although you may have been in a vulnerable state too, that is not any excuse.”
The judge said he would suspend the prison sentence because of “exceptional circumstances” – Aspey’s illness and subsequent depression.