December 2018

School IT worker bullied girl in sadomasochistic abuse

A school IT technician bullied an underage pupil to engage in violent and sexual abuse which saw him attack her on school grounds.

Alex Barnes, 22, would slap the girl, pull her hair and also sexually abused her in a classroom and toilet at the school, a court heard.

The grooming – which was discovered after schoolmates of Barnes’ victim became suspicious – started after he became Facebook friends with the 15-year-old pupil and began volunteering for a club she attended.

During the course of the contact the defendant persuaded the pupil to engage in sexual activity on the school grounds during school hours as well as in his car and at his home.

School staff became concerned about the contact between Barnes and the girl, who can’t be named for legal reasons, after she confided in friends on a foreign trip.

Despite being suspended from the school after an investigation was launched and being interviewed by police Barnes continued abusing the girl and coerced her into performing a sex act on him.

A sentencing hearing at Newport Crown Court on Monday heard Barnes became an assistant IT technician at the school – in the Bridgend area – in February 2017 but the contact with the girl did not start until the beginning of 2018.

Prosecutor Lawrence Jones said Barnes had sexual preferences for bondage and sadomasochism (BDSM) and he persuaded the girl it was what constituted a normal relationship.

He said a number of sexual offences were committed in an empty classroom where Barnes kissed the girl and slapped her across the face and buttocks.

On another occasion Barnes felt the girl’s breasts and and made her touch his groin in a disabled school toilet.

The defendant took the girl for lifts in his car and would engage in sexual activity which involved slapping her face. He also communicated with the girl over webcam and made her perform sexual acts at his direction.

While the pupil attended a school trip overseas there was regular contact between her and Barnes and her roommates became suspicious she was in a relationship with the defendant, the court heard.

An investigation was launched by the school in February 2018 and Barnes was suspended. He was also interviewed by police but this did not stop his contact with the pupil.

Mr Jones said: “The Crown say the defendant not only encouraged the complainant but also, during the initial investigation and his subsequent statement to police, he continued and escalated the nature of the sexual activity despite being investigated and suspended by the school.”

During this period the defendant and the girl continued to meet and communicate via webcam.

During a police interview in March Barnes accepted having a friendship with the pupil and admitted had engaged in “kissing and cuddling” with her but he denied a sexual relationship.

His phone was seized and analysed. Many of the messages between Barnes and the pupil had been deleted but a substantial amount were recovered.

Subsequent meetings between Barnes and the pupil took place in which the defendant coerced the girl to perform a sex act on him in his car and at his home.

In another police interview in May Barnes admitted to having a preference for BDSM but denied having full sex or slapping the girl’s face, saying the the relationship was “romantic” rather than sexual.

A week before his scheduled trial Barnes pleaded guilty to six counts of sexual activity with a child and three counts of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

Sentencing, Judge Daniel Williams said: “You were in a position of trust which you breached. You persuaded [the pupil] to become your Facebook friend and you decided to talk about sex and your interest to submitting her to submissive sexual activity. You made her believe that what you wanted from her was normal.”

Judge Williams said the defendant posed a “high risk” of harm to children and only an immediate custodial sentence would be appropriate.

He added: “This sort of offending strikes horror into the minds of those who entrust others to look after their children at school.”

Barnes was sentenced to a total of five years imprisonment.

He was ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register and made subject to a sexual harm prevention order for life.

The defendant was also barred from working with children and was made subject to a restraining order preventing him from contacting his victim.