March 2015

Pervert who sent explicit messages to 13-year-old girl has been cleared to work with children again

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A former school support worker who was jailed after exchanging explicit text messages with a 13-year-old girl has been cleared to work with children again.

Shaun Alexander Burford was caged for six months in 2009 when he was employed at Christ Church School, now The John Wallis Academy, after sending a video of himself having a threesome to a 13-year-old girl and encouraging her to text him a topless photo of herself.

Burford, now 46, was made to sign the sex offenders’ register and was also hit with a sexual offences prevention order (SOPO) and an order disqualifying him from working with children or vulnerable adults.

However, this week, the former soldier and father appeared at London’s Appeal Court where top judges overturned the ban after deciding Burford was no longer a threat.

Judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC said Burford had been depressed and drinking heavily at the time and had later taken steps to distance himself from the teenager.

He said Burford, of Coombe Valley Road, Dover, was a “good father” and a respected figure and he had collected numerous references testifying to his good character.

Overturning the ban, Judge Bourne-Arton, sitting with Lord Justice Pitchford and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, said there was “no material” indicating Burford was likely to commit further sex crimes against children.

Burford said he had “succumbed to temptation” when in the grip of a “personal crisis”, the judge said.

He added: “Are we satisfied that he will commit further offences against children? There is no material before us to allow us to come to such a conclusion. The disqualification order will be quashed.”

Burford was working in a pastoral role at the school when he received a text message from a girl on Christmas Eve 2007 telling him: “Have a great Christmas.”

The conversation became intimate and they both admitted being bisexual before the video and photo were exchanged.

At Maidstone Crown Court in June 2009 Burford admitted causing a child to watch a sexual act and to engage in sexual activity.

Kent County Council, on behalf of Christ Church School, confirmed a police Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check, the forerunner to today’s Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), was carried out into Burford’s background when he joined the school.

July 2009

Ashford school worker Shaun Burford jailed for sex offences

A school pastoral support worker has been jailed for six months for sex offences with a teenage girl.

Shaun Burford was told by a judge he regarded his case as exceptional but added it was not so exceptional that he could suspend the sentence.

Maidstone Crown Court heard the 41-year-old married father was promoted to team leader of pupil services at Christ Church School in Ashford.

Caroline Knight, prosecuting, said Burford’s first duty was to “demonstrate the devotion of the school’s Christian ethos”.

Burford, whose wife Angela was head of history at the school, received a text from a girl, aged 13, on Christmas Eve 2007 telling him: “Have a great Christmas.”

“The conversation moves on to being sexually explicit and culminates in him encouraging her to send photographs of herself,” said Miss Knight. “They talk about their sexuality.

“He talks about being bisexual and she says she is too.

“He says he can’t stop thinking about her and encourages her to send indecent photographs of herself.

“He said he loved them even better in lingerie.”

The prosecutor said the former soldier and the girl continued to talk on MSN messaging and he sent her an obscene video clip of him having sex.

The girl sent back a photo of her naked from the waist up. The images were discussed in explicit terms.

“She asked if the pictures were OK,” said the prosecutor. “He says: ‘Oh yes.’ She asked him if there was any particular one he liked.

“There was discussion about what he would like to do to her if they met.”

The matter was reported to the police and Burford was arrested.

Miss Knight said the girl had since been “completely off the register” and it had not been possible to take an impact

statement from her.
Burford, of Coombe Valley Road, Dover, admitted causing a child to watch a sexual act and causing a child to engage in sexual activity.

Leroy Redhead, defending, said as soon as Burford realised what he had got himself into, he tried to distance himself from the girl.

He had been drunk and depressed when he received the text. It was wrong to suggest he had targeted her, said Mr Redhead.

“He realises what he did was serious,” he said. “The offences started when he was at a low point in his life. He was drinking a lot and his guard was down.”

Mr Redhead said Burford went into the Army at the age of 17 and served his country proudly, including in Northern Ireland.

His daughters had written to the court stating he was a good father.

Urging Judge Jeremy Carey to impose a suspended sentence, he said Burford was full of remorse and regret.

“He was a citizen people looked up to,” he said. “He is on anti-depressants. He has lost the one thing in his life he loved a great deal. He loved the job.

“He loved working with children. His job was to encourage those getting off the rails to get back on the rails.”

Mr Redhead said Burford and his wife were back together and she was supporting of him. He had found a new job.

“Prison would be very difficult for him,” he added.

Ex-Army Sgt Paul Wainwright described Burford as “a man of great integrity”.

He added he was “stunned and shocked” when he heard about the offences.

Neighbour Kelly Cooper told the court she considered Burford a decent man. “I have three children and would not hesitate to leave any of them in his care,” she said.