Felixstowe man who worked in Colchester school jailed after offering girls a threesome and fantasising about bondage in sexually explicit messages

James Heathcote

James Heathcote - Credit: Archant

A Colchester school staff member has been jailed after offering two girls a threesome and fantasising about being tied up while exchanging sexually explicit messages.

James Heathcote, of Parkeston Road, Felixstowe, was sentenced to five months’ imprisonment by Chelmsford Crown Court. He had previously admitted two counts of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

Heathcote, who played at a high level on the Suffolk local football scene, worked at St Helena School secondary school.

Before that the 26-year-old had been employed at other schools including Manningtree High and Sidegate Lane Primary in Ipswich.

Although he had no previous convictions or cautions, the court heard he had been dismissed from one of his previous posts after an allegation of sexual harassment by a female member of staff.

Prosecutor Allan Compton described Heathcote as a cover teacher, although he had no formal qualifications. However, Peter Barlex, representing Heathcote, said his client was not a teacher or teaching assistant, but a supervisor.

During the hearing Mr Compton said Heathcote sent one of the schoolgirls 242 texts over a seven-day period. The content of these were unknown as they were not recovered.

Most Read

Judge David Turner told Heathcote: “You gravely breached the trust that was placed in you by the school which was employing you, the parents who entrusted their young people with you and the profession you were in.

“Young women in school are entitled to be protected, even from themselves, as I hope you realise.

“You gravely crossed boundaries as I accept you now appreciate.”

The court heard that after allegations were initially made against him Heathcote asked one of the girls to delete the texts he had sent.

The judge said: “That in a way is part of the wickedness of this.”

He concluded by telling Heathcote: “You have paid a high price, no doubt, for your folly.”

Earlier Mr Barlex said in mitigation: “It was a situation that got out of hand over a short period of time and it is something he bitterly regrets ever becoming involved in.

“This was a profession he had really set his sights upon. That is gone. That is completely gone.”

The court was told Heathcote had not sought to hide what had happened from those closest to him, and was deeply ashamed and embarrassed.

Previously Mr Compton said Heathcote and the two girls had exchanged messages in texts, on Facetime through mobile phones, and on social media sites.

Although physical sexual activity was said not to have taken place, the content of messages was explicit.

One of the girls remembered Heathcote had asked for a threesome which they refused, the court was told.

Mr Compton said on another occasion that Heathcote asked the girls to show their bottoms and then exposed his penis while they were speaking on Facetime.

In addition to his jail term Heathcote must sign the sex offenders’ register for seven years and was given a 10-year sexual harm prevention order.

St Helena School has stressed the safety of students is the school’s top priority and that it followed the correct procedures in its pre-employment checks.

At the time of his guilty plea Heathcote was playing local football for Woodbridge, where he had made his debut only two days earlier after being signed from Debenham.

John Beecroft, chairman of Woodbridge Town, said the club had de-registered Heathcote after finding out he had appeared in court last month.

- We have been asked to point out that this case has absolutely no connection with James Heathcote, 36, of Colchester, a former languages teacher at the same school who coincidentally shares the same name as the defendant. He left the school three years ago after working there for 12 years.