Classroom assistant put on list of sex offenders

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A classroom assistant who was convicted of sexually assaulting a pupil at a local school has been ordered to sign a sex offenders register for five years.

John Arthur, of Hillcrest, was convicted of sexually assaulting the teenage girl after a contest at Derry Magistrate’s Court.

The incident occurred on May 13 last year and involved the 41-year-old touching the girl’s collarbone and breast area above her bra.

Mark Reel, defending, said the assault was at the “lower end of the spectrum” and occurred the day after a social get-together between staff and pupils.

He said “some of the social barriers” that would normally exist between school staff and pupils had been “broken down” that night.

Mr Reel said Arthur “finds it difficult to quite understand why he did what he did” and it has had “entirely devastating consequences both in his family life and professional life”.

The court was told the defendant had hoped to become a teacher, but that was now closed to him and he was already being punished for his actions.

The barrister said that his client has a clear criminal record and this incident was a “momentary lapse by someone who had an otherwise blameless life”.

Ordering Arthur to spend two years on probation and complete a community programme for sex offenders, District Judge Barney McElholm accepted the sexual assault was a “moment of absolute madness”.

He said Arthur now accepts responsibility for his actions but it is “just a pity that he didn’t adopt that attitude from the outset, preventing his victim from having to give evidence, which is a traumatic experience in itself”.

The judge said the classroom assistant had “breached the trust placed in him” and the incident was “wholly inappropriate and shocking for the victim”.

He told the court the “moment of madness has had drastic repercussions for the victim but also for his family who are totally innocent in this matter”.

Mr McElholm added it would “serve no purpose to send him to prison”.

He said it was “more important that the court ensure such a thing will not happen again and that no other young person has to suffer the trauma of this young victim”.