A FORMER teacher has been jailed for 30 months for sexually assaulting a schoolgirl.

Mark Harrison, aged 49, of Stanley Road, Whitefield, a former St Monica’s RC High School teacher was sentenced this afternoon for one count of grooming a child and four counts of sexual activity with a child.

The 14-year-old victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, is a pupil at St Monica’s, but the offences did not take place while Harrison was a teacher there.

At today’s Bolton Crown Court hearing, Judge Peter Davies told Harrison: “This girl developed a crush on you.

“It was up to you to say ‘no’ because you were her whole role model and you should have been her advisor – not her abuser.”

The court heard how Harrison began what Judge Davies described as “what can only be called a relationship” with the girl online and then they met at his mother’s house on two occasions – May 5 and May 11 this year – and sexual activity took place.

Later, the girl told a member of the school staff and Harrison was arrested.

He had admitted five charges at an early hearing. A separate charge of sexual activity with a child was ordered to lie on file.

Harrison was also banned from having unauthorised contact with girls under the age of 16 and from going within 50 metres of schools without justification.

Judge Davies said the starting point for the sentence was four years and he had to give Harrison a third off due to good behaviour.

He added that good references from friends, family and members of the community had shown that Harrison had been a man of integrity during 17 years' teaching maths at St Monica’s.

After the hearing, Detective Sergeant Louise Bentley, of Bury Police, said: "The victim's emotional and physical wellbeing has been affected as has her school work.

" It is not an overstatement to say she has suffered enormously as a result of the abuse carried out by Harrison.

"While he fully admitted what had happened on interview, he sought to minimise his responsibility and tried to blame the victim.

"As an experienced former teacher and middle-aged man, I find such sentiments to be insulting to the victim and others in the profession.

"The courage displayed by the victim in confiding in someone at the school and then speaking to police and supporting a prosecution cannot be understated and does show that there are mechanisms in place for reporting abuse and supporting victims when something like this happens.

"We have worked closely with the school throughout and safeguarding of pupils remains a top priority for us and our partners.

"If you or anyone you know is suffering any form of abuse I would encourage you to contact the police, a parent or friend or someone at someone else you feel you can trust."