Hannah Harris, now 23, tricked the teenage boy’s parents into believing he was seeing a girl of the same age by pretending to be her mother, a court has heard. Harris worked at a school in Hertfordshire.
She told the 14-year-old’s parents that she lived with her daughter who was their son’s fictional girlfriend, St Albans Crown Court.
Harris claimed to be called Olivia and living with daughter Kayla, the fictional girlfriend.
In one text, Harris wrote: “Seems Kayla and [the boy] are getting on well, so I am happy to ferry them around.”
Prosecutor Simon Wilshire told the court: “Both parents believed they had spoken to Olivia on the phone and his mum had exchanged texts.
Hannah Harris tricked a boy’s parents into believing he was seeing a girl of the same age
St Alban’s Crown Court heard Harris was warned by a member of staff about “inappropriate” behaviour
“The names Kayla and Olivia were fictions to hide the fact they were meeting up. The parents were in fact talking to Ms Harris as that was the number they had been given for Olivia.”
St Alban’s Crown Court also heard Harris warned at least twice by a member of staff about “inappropriate conversations” and flirtatious behaviour, including one incident of “play fighting” with a pupil.
She was caught in January 2020 when the boy’s older brother found out. The youngster admitted Olivia and Kayla were made up.
Mr Wilshire said: “When the parents became aware, they realized they had unwittingly facilitated the contact.
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Harris broke down in tears at the sentencing on Wednesday
Harris was sentenced at St Albans Crown Court
“They had been duped by the boy into the belief he was seeing someone of his own age.”
He added: “As a teaching assistant at his school she would have known his age – such activity is a criminal offense regardless of whether he believed himself to be a willing party.”
In a victim impact statement, the boy said Harris’s defense case that he had raped her had “made him feel dirty”, the court heard.
He said the teenager had been unable to focus on his studies and was on medication for anxiety as well as depression.
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Harris was cleared of three other charges
Harris, from Bedfordshire, denied four charges of sexual activity with a child in December 2019 and January 2020.
She was convicted by a jury majority of 10 to 2 of having sex with the boy in her car in a Wilko car park.
Jurors cleared her of three other charges of sexual activity with the youngster alleged to have taken place twice on a downs and once at her home.
Mr Wilshire said Harris had shown no remorse for the offense when she was interviewed by a probation officer for a pre-sentence report.
She was first employed in 2018 in the IT department at the school before becoming a teaching assistant in 2019.
When questioned by the police, she said the first contact was when the pupil sent her a message on Instagram.
Harris, from Harrier Mill, Henlow, Bedfordshire, denied four charges of sexual activity with a child
She said she stupidly replied and continued communication until she agreed to meet him outside school hours.
Julia Flanagan, defending, said: “She has been convicted of sexual activity on a single occasion.
“She has expressed regret that she allowed the relationship to develop; met him outside school and deceived his parents.
“She shouldn’t have let [the] relationship develop and for that she apologises.”
Ms Flanagan said Harris had no previous convictions. She added that character references described her as kind, polite and respectful.
Judge Caroline Wigin, in sentencing, said: “He was particularly vulnerable.
“At the school in November 2019 you were warned about inappropriate discussions with pupils. It was clear you were someone who sought to identify with the pupils rather than staff members
“In early January 2020 a friend warned you it was being said you fancied [the boy]. You told her that was not true
“On January 10 you were warned by a member of staff who had observed you with a pupil acting as if you were a couple of teenagers and flirting. You had been play fighting.
“You disregarded all the warnings you had. He found you attractive and sent you messages [via] social media. You were aware of any such messages should have been reported to senior staff.
“Having had some response from you he was enthusiastic to pursue what he saw was a relationship.
“You groomed him. You took him in your car for trips, took him to the supermarket, bought his favorite sweets, bought him ice cream and took him to McDonald’s. You smoked cannabis he had purchased in your car.”
The judge told Harris when her claim went through the school that he had raped her it had a devastating effect on him.
Before sentencing on Wednesday, Ms Flanagan argued the messages and trips had not been geared specifically towards facilitating a sexual relationship with the boy.
Judge Wigin cut in, saying it was “utterly inappropriate” to form any relationship of any kind, before adding Harris would have been aware of this from her training.
She added: “She chose to disregard that. She chose to abuse this trust.”
Harris has to register as a sex offender for life and is banned from working with children.
Last month, her father, Jason, defended his daughter, insisting the family would not give up on her.
He told The Sun: “I don’t believe what came out in court. She shouldn’t have been doing that job. She was too young.
“She was in that job because she wanted to help people, that’s what she does, she helps people.
“She’s very, very good-natured. Anyone she’s ever worked for before and still working for now speak very highly of her.”