A deputy headteacher has been jailed for 13 years and four months for the rape and sexual abuse of a child, a crime which has shocked the local community.
Julie Morris 44, was jailed on Wednesday (22 December) after she and partner David Morris, 52, filmed themselves raping and sexually abusing a girl under the age of 13.
The horrifying videos showed Julie Morris giggling as the abuse took place, the court heard.
Who are Julie and David Morris?
Julie Morris had worked at St George’s Central CofE Primary School in Wigan since 2011, and had been safeguarding lead for the school.
The court heard the offences did not relate to her employment, but she had sent photos of pupils at the school to her partner David Morris.
John Wyn Williams, prosecuting, said although the pictures were not indecent, they were intended for David Morris’s sexual gratification.
Prosecutor John Wyn Williams said the pair met on the dating app Plenty of Fish in 2016 after both had separated from their partners, and the relationship "quickly became intensely sexual".
He said: "The communication between them became graphic and depraved, which led to some of their sexual fantasies becoming a reality."
The sexual abuse of the child first emerged after police discovered a conversation about sexual abuse of children involving David Morris on a phone seized during a search warrant.
He was then arrested but cautioned and released and a number of devices were seized, which showed the recordings of rape and sexual abuse, the court heard.
The next day, the pair were arrested as they appeared to be trying to evade the police.
"They were on their way to the Lake District in a camper van with £10,000 in their possession," Mr Wyn Williams told the court.
Police officers trawled through 175,000 pages of messages between the couple revealing sexually explicit communications, as well as videos and images on David Morris's phone.
They described the victim in the messages as "our little plaything".
The defendants also set up a group chat with the child where they would discuss how they would abuse her.
What were their sentences?
Julie Morris pleaded guilty to 18 offences on Wednesday, including two counts of rape, nine of inciting a child under the age of 13 to engage in sexual activity, and two of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child.
She also admitted three counts of taking indecent images of a child, one of engaging in sexual communication with a child, and one of possessing indecent images of a child.
She was also ordered to serve a licence period of four years after the prison sentence.
David Morris was sentenced to 16 years in jail, with an extended licence period of four years, for 34 offences, including seven counts of rape and 13 counts of causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity.
Sentencing the pair, Judge Andrew Menary said: "Every now and again you see cases, the circumstances of which are almost beyond belief. This is one of those cases.
"It demonstrates that human depravity really knows no depths."
In an interview, Julie Morris admitted the offences but claimed the victim had wanted to take part.
Judge Menary said: “That last statement is breath-taking in its inappropriateness.”
Paul Becker, defending Morris, said she had “lost everything in life”, including her reputation, career and home, adding: “She was held in high regard prior to her offending.”
He said that when she met Morris she was at a “low ebb” after she discovered her husband of 15 years had been unfaithful.
Mairead Neeson, senior prosecutor at the CPS, said the case was one of the worst she had seen in her career, adding: “The descriptions of what they did are so horrific that when I finished reading them. I burst into tears.
“It’s a young child whose innocence has been stolen.”
What the local council has said
In a statement, Wigan Council said it had sought reassurances from police after the photos were discovered and there was no evidence any children at the school were harmed.
The images were not inappropriate in nature and were taken of children in the school setting, the authority said.
A spokesman said: “Now these details have come to light, we fully understand that the school community will be appalled by these distressing details.
“These are despicable offences and behaviour, especially from someone in a position of trust.
“We will now ensure that everyone within the school community and anyone affected receives the appropriate support now the criminal trial has concluded.
“We know that parents may have follow-up concerns and questions and we will make sure we address these as best we can in partnership with our police colleagues.
“We would like to thank Merseyside Police for their work during the investigation.
“Undoubtedly this has been an awful chapter in the history of the school – but we now hope this close-knit school community can move forward together without being further tarnished by the despicable actions of one individual.”
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