A “failure in safeguarding” allowed a teacher fixated with young girls to abuse six pupils – a year after he “got away” with the same offences at his previous primary school.
Jonathan Clayton, 27, was a predator “unable to resist” girls aged between seven and 11, a court was told.
He had been caught and prosecuted at a school in 2017 but when his case was dropped the accusations against him were not passed on to his new employer.
The head was “shocked and horrified” when she was told of the previous allegations at an emergency safeguarding meeting called after disclosures against Clayton by six girls at her school.
Today at Teesside Crown Court he was found guilty on all counts after a jury deliberated for 10 hours. Clayton leant on the dock with is head bowed as the verdicts were announced.
Police were told that at his first school in 2017 Clayton “fixated” on certain girls, engineering excuses to touch and cuddle them and bouncing them on his knee like toddlers.
One eight-year-old disclosed how he put his hand up her skirt whilst sitting at his desk – but her evidence was not deemed strong enough to pursue a prosecution when the case came to crown court.
The Crown Prosecution Service dropped the first case, ordering he be found not guilty at Durham Crown Court. The decision followed a statement from the girl’s mother saying she sometimes made up stories for attention.
In police interview Clayton described his young accuser as “scheming” and dismissed her claims as “absolute bulls***.”
Prosecutor Richard Bennett told the court: “The prosecution say he knew precisely what he had done and what he had got away with.
“Now, if you were a normal man you would have been utterly horrified and mortified to be put in that position.
“A normal man without an interest in young girls would have chided himself for being so stupid and naive that he had placed himself in a situation where he could ever have been accused of it.
“But this defendant isn’t a normal man. he is a man who is sexually attracted to little girls aged between seven and 11. He can’t resist them.”
Mr Bennett added: “At some stage after he left the employment of the first school in 2017 and before he arrived at the second in 2019 there appears to have been a failure in safeguarding.
“The fact he had been investigated for child sex offences was not communicated. He didn’t tell anyone, he didn’t tell his agency, they didn’t tell the school.
“It is not clear where that failure was, but it was nothing to do with his new school.
“As a consequence of that failure, the unsuspecting staff had no idea that this new, engaging enthusiastic, charismatic male teacher had, but a year before he arrived, been facing very serious sex offence
“The only check the school was able to do was to check an ID cards against children.”
Clayton, from the village of Carlton, Stockton-on-Tees, had denied 13 charges of sexually assaulting six girls aged between seven and 11 during a six week period in April and May last year. He claims he was a victim of “Chinese whispers” among pupils and staff.
A teaching assistant at his first school gave evidence to say she informed her safeguarding lead and made a statement to police because she was so concerned by Clayton’s behaviour.
She told the court: “He would stroke his hand down a child’s back like you would with a partner. One girl had long hair and he stroked her from the top of her head all the way down her back. It made me really uncomfortable.
“It was always the girls. There were a few girls he fixated, if that is the right word, more on.”
Although the police had a complete record and the school was fully aware of all the allegations none of this information reached his new school, leaving him free to continue abusing children.
The court heard that Clayton was considered “charismatic” by his new colleagues and at first was popular with his young pupils until one after the other they began making alarming disclosures about him.
The girls said he would touch them whilst helping them dress after PE, even though they had not asked for or needed help.
He touched girls as they stood at his desk, leaving one alleged victim “feeling disgusting.”
The head of the second school was asked by prosecutor Richard Bennett: “When you have an agency employing teachers what do you know about that teacher?”
She replied: “Very little. The agency do lots of checks and references beforehand. We are told what they are able to teach, what their expertise is and whether they’re best suited to early years or perhaps years 5 and 6. The vetting is the responsibility of the supply agency.”
In May last year girls began telling parents and teaching assistants what Clayton was doing.
The head said: “I was called to a meeting at County Hall on May 16th. I was present together with representatives of the police, the council and a child safety team manager to discuss the allegations made in school.”
It was there that she learned of the past accusations against him. Mr Bennett asked how she felt on being told and she answered: “I was horrified …. I was shocked.”
The head told of the effect Clayton’s alleged offending had on staff at her school.
She said one teaching assistant had been haunted by nightmares about Clayton, telling the court: “She told me she’d had a really vivid dream that she came downstairs and Mr Clayton was sitting in her living room.
“I told her, this is not your fault, he has form. I did not go into any details.”
The supply agency said information was withheld from them.
A spokesperson for Vision for Education said: “We take our safeguarding responsibilities very seriously, ensuring that all statutory safeguarding checks are carried out for every candidate and references are obtained from previous schools where candidates have worked.
“In this instance, all of the statutory checks relating to the candidate were clear but information relating to the previous allegations was withheld from us and, instead, the school where the first allegations were made expressly confirmed that the candidate was suitable to work with children and that they would recommend the candidate for employment.
“The candidate was immediately removed from our supply register once we were made aware of the current allegations and we worked closely with the police and local authority throughout their investigation. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families, who have shown immense bravery throughout this investigation and trial.”
Victims of child abuse – no matter when it occurred – are urged to seek help from the police and partner agencies.
Please contact North Yorkshire Police on 101.
If you are in immediate danger, always dial 999 for an emergency response.
Victims who would prefer not to go direct to the police and are not in immediate danger, can contact Bridge House, North Yorkshire’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), on 0330 223 0362, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.bridgehousesarc.org/
You can also contact the Supporting Victims Unit direct at www.supportingvictims.org or call 01609 643100.
- Help for adults concerned about a child – call 0808 800 5000
- Help for children and young people – call Childline on 0800 1111
- Go to https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/