February 2018

Care worker jailed after she had sex with a 15-year-old boy

A 23-year-old care home worker has been jailed for having sex with a boy of 15 while he was in her care.

Chrystal Barnes had been the 15-year-old’s key worker in a home in North East Somerset when the sexual offences took place.

Barnes had sexual intercourse with the boy, who was a resident at the care home, on a number of occasions between October and December 2017.

She was arrested on December 23 after the teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told his mother and the authorities about the inappropriate nature of his relationship with her.

Barnes was later charged with three counts of sexual activity with a child and was sentenced to three years in prison on Friday, February 9, after pleading guilty to the offences at Bristol Crown Court.

During a sentencing hearing the prosecution and Judge Michael Cullum said the severity of the case centred on the how the defendant abused her position of power over the child, although they agreed no grooming had taken place in this particular case.

Having graduated from university, Barnes had wanted to go into a profession to make a positive difference to the lives of young people experiencing difficulty, the court heard.

However, the first of her offences took place only months after she started working for Wessex College, a residential care provider for children and young adults, aged ten to 19.

During one evening in October, the victim, who has ADHD and Asperger’s, persuaded Barnes to buy him a bottle of wine and drank it, along with around ten cans of lager he had obtained from a friend.

To sober him up, another care worker who found him suggested Barnes take him out for a drive, which the court heard was common practice at the home, which also cannot be named.

During the outing the 15-year-old asked the defendant to drive him to his girlfriend’s house, which was miles away, and became agitated when he realised she was just driving him around in circles.

The court was told he then fell asleep, and claimed he woke up in a remote car park to find Barnes putting her hand on his lap.

After asking him to have sex with her the two began having sexual intercourse before Barnes dropped the boy back at the care home.

From that point on, the unhealthy relationship continued with the second offence taking place in the boy’s room within the care home. On this occasion, the victim said he initiated sex.

On Thursday, November 28, the defendant told the 15-year-old to leave the care home to visit her home in Westbury where they had sex a further three times over several hours.

It was after this instance that Barnes stopped seeing the young teenager.

But the court heard the boy then began blackmailing her, threatening to tell his mum about the affair if she did not do what he asked including giving him lifts in her car.

In one of Barnes’ messages to him, she pleaded: “You said you would never hurt me.”

Another message read: “I’m begging you, tell her it didn’t happen. This will ruin my life.”

Defending Barnes, from Westbury in Wiltshire, Clare Fear emphasised her previous good character and the remorse and shame she felt for her actions.

Judge Cullum said the case warranted a jail sentence.

He said: “There are thousands of care workers who work each day without committing offences, and tens of thousands of workers who care for children and don’t violate them by having sex with them.

“The very person entrusted to look after the victim abused him – that was you. The reality is that young people and children have to be protected from themselves, as well as from those who prey on the vulnerable. The fact that your victim turned against you goes to show that.

“I took on board that you didn’t seek out a child to abuse but you did find a child, and a child in your care, for that matter. I don’t consider your age to be a significant difference and you are of previous good character.

“But when you picked him up and encouraged him to have sex, that is when you sent yourself to prison. He was vulnerable because he was drunk. If that was the only time then there could be room for mitigation but you then, in what is the most serious incident, took him to yours and had sex three times.

“In my judgement, were I to suspend this sentence it would be a dereliction of my duty.”

As part of her sentence, Barnes will also be placed on the sex offenders register for life.