November 2016

Acting head teacher jailed for grooming girl as judge questions how he was ever appointed

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A judge questioned why the acting head of a specialist educational unit was ever appointed to the position as he jailed him for grooming a girl.

Patrick Toogood had targeted a ‘vulnerable’ pupil at the unit where he is understood to have worked for 10 years.

He sent her sexually explicit messages by text.

He had also bought a gift for the teen, which aroused suspicion of a parent, as had the discovery of his personal email address.

He had texted the pupil asking her to pleasure herself, and said that he wanted to have sex with her. He said he would hire a cottage where they could spend time together and she could ‘turn up naked’.

The unit, Step Ahead Educational Centre in Swansea, was described in court as a specialist educational centre ‘for pupils who struggle with mainstream education due to learning or mental health issues’.

The 57-year-old teacher, of Killan Road in Dunvant, Swansea, had pleaded guilty last month to a charge of being an adult abusing a position of trust by inciting sexual activity with a girl aged between 13 and 17.

He appeared at Swansea Crown Court for sentencing.

The court was told the police investigations had identified ‘other episodes in a school setting’.

Officers went to Toogood’s home after his victim had contacted Childline, who alerted the police.

Toogood handed over his mobile phone to police to examine, where messages were discovered, but answered ‘no comment’ to questions in police interview.

Prosecuting, Tom Scapens said Toogood had left a voicemail message with his victim in which he said he had sexual dreams of her, and that ‘he relieved himself by thinking of her’.

He added: “Her mother is deeply disappointed by what has happened, and could not express enough anger towards the defendant”.

Sentencing, Judge Paul Thomas QC said the police report into the investigation ‘had identified other episodes in the school environment’, and described him as ‘selfishly and arrogantly’ pursuing his victim for his sexual kicks.

And he also criticised a letter from his stepdaughter, in which she had described their own family as ‘victims’ of the fall-out from his prosecution.

He added: “You know from 32 years of teaching experience that teenage girls could look up to you and potentially become infatuated with a male authority figure, yet you cynically abused your position of trust to groom for sexual purposes.

“You knew the impact on her. I have no doubt if matters had not been discovered you would have gone further.

“The character references speak of the impact on your wife, and one letter from your stepdaughter makes the astonishing claim that she and the family have not been considered in this because they are the victim.

“You have betrayed your wife and to seek clemency now on that is obviously difficult for you

“I question how you reached the position you did with matters raised in the past about appropriate behaviour towards young girls in your care.”

Toogood was jailed for 32 weeks, of which he will serve half, and told he would have to sign the sex offenders register for the next 10 years.

He must not stay overnight in the home of anyone under the age of 18 without their parent or guarding having knowledge of his conviction, or work with children under the age of 18.