Former teaching assistant, 31, pleads guilty to sexual activity with four boys at school where he worked

Challenge College - now renamed Oasis Academy Lister Park

Challenge College - now renamed Oasis Academy Lister Park

First published in News
Last updated
by , T&A Reporter

A former teaching assistant at a Bradford secondary school has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing four boys there.

Darren Thornton, 31, admitted eight charges of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and three counts of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child when he appeared at Bradford Crown Court yesterday.

The court was told that the allegations involved Thornton exposing himself in front of boys at Challenge College, Manningham, and asking them to send him photos of their private parts, between March 1 and July 1, 2011.

Thornton, of Alban Street, East Bowling, Bradford, committed the offences with four boys, aged 11 to 13, while working as a learning support assistant at school, which has since been renamed Oasis Academy Lister Park.

Ian Cook, solicitor advocate for Thornton, asked for sentence to be delayed for a probation service report and a report from a forensic psychologist.

Mr Cook said Thornton was of previous good character and on bail.

Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC said the offences were “a gross breach of trust” and imprisonment almost inevitable.

He asked Mr Cook what Thornton’s role at the school was, to which he replied: “He worked as a teaching assistant and ran after-school clubs, sporting activities and the like.”

Mr Cook said the “matters” were investigated over a significant period and the last offence was committed in July 2011.

Thornton’s legal team had indicated at the magistrates court that the case would not go to trial because he would plead guilty.

Mr Cook said there was an appointment on May 16 for Thornton to see a psychologist.

He told the court that although Thornton had attended a mainstream school when a pupil, he was helped by learning assistants.

“The age at which this defendant functions may be relevant to sentencing,” Mr Cook said.

Judge Durham Hall adjourned the case until June 6.

He said the probation office must address the question of dangerousness.

Thornton was told to sign on with the police as a sex offender with immediate effect.

Judge Durham Hall extended his bail on condition that he lives at home with his parents who would keep “a watchful eye on him”.

After the case it was revealed that Thornton had been dismissed by the school.

A spokesman for Oasis Academy Lister Park said: “We have no higher priority than the safety and well-being of our students.

“When our predecessor school, Challenge College, became aware of the allegations against Mr Thornton he was immediately suspended and all the information was handed to the police.

"As is standard practise, the school had to wait while the police investigation continued and could not take further disciplinary action while the investigation was under way.

“When Challenge College became an Oasis Academy, the decision was made to dismiss Mr Thornton from employment.

"At this time, all safeguarding policies were reviewed and all background checks on members of staff are up-to-date.

"We are pleased that our most recent Ofsted report judged that our students are safe at school.”

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