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No jail for teaching assistant who had affair with student

Helen Turnbull
Helen Turnbull

A teaching assistant who had an affair with a 16-year-old pupil was spared jail again after she admitted crashing her hatchback into two cars while drunk.

Helen Turnbull, 36, injured one woman who was trying to fix a flat tyre and smashed into another car in Haswell, County Durham, in July.

Teesside Crown Court heard how she had gained "notoriety" in her area following a court case last year. She admitted kissing a pupil but was cleared of three further counts of sexual activity with a child, after a trial.

She lost her job and contact with her two children as a result of the offence, which happened during the break up of her marriage.

Emma Atkinson, prosecuting, said Turnbull's car crashed into Jacqueline Tobin's Vauxhall Astra as she tried to repair a flat tyre at the side of the road.

Miss Tobin was sent sprawling but Turnbull did not stop, and was to crash into William Ward's parked car.

When police came she refused to give a breath specimen.

Miss Tobin suffered a cut finger, bruises and a painful shoulder injury, the court heard.

In a victim statement she said she still felt pain, adding: "Her moment of madness has really affected me and I hope the courts give her the punishment she deserves."

Her car was a write-off and she estimated her loss to be £1,350. The damage to Mr Ward's car was thought to have cost £1,500.

His daughter's boyfriend filmed Turnbull still behind the wheel of her car trying to get out, and told her she must wait for the police.

Turnbull's reply, described in court as "rather plaintive", was: "I just want to go home."

Police called to the scene described her as "intoxicated" and she refused to provide a breath specimen. In interview, she made no comment.

Anne Richardson, defending, said the driving offences came eight months after the trial, during which she was subject to extensive press coverage and after which she lost her job.

When she went to the job centre, Turnbull bumped into former pupils.

"I don't need to spell out the comments and jibes that go along with that," Miss Richardson said.

Her mood was "incredibly low" and was on anti-depressants, the court heard.

Miss Richardson said: "She has become, sadly, a bit of a notoriety in this small area with everyone having their opinions which they voice to her face or on social media.

"She has lost everything."

Judge Tony Briggs handed her a four month jail sentence suspended for two years. That will follow the four month suspended jail sentence she was handed for the offence of kissing the pupil.

He ordered her to carry out 100 hours community service, plus pay compulsory court costs of £180. She was banned from driving for three years.

He said: "You quite clearly had drunk too much. You decided to drive your car.

"Not surprisingly it collided firstly with Miss Tobin's car, and subsequently with another vehicle.

"Looking at the video, it is perfectly clear that you were under the influence of drink and in a state which really did not enable you to appreciate the reality of what you did."

He added: "Things could have been worse if anyone had been very badly injured or alternatively had been killed in the course of this you would be facing a custodial sentence of many years."

The judge said it was not in the public's interest to jail her immediately.

Turnbull, of Church View, Haswell, covered herself up in a large coat as she walked out of court.