A TEACHING assistant at a Chester school has been jailed for three and a half years for inciting a former pupil to masturbate on a web chat.

Carl Jones, 38, pleaded guilty to a total of seven offences, which also included pleasuring himself in front of the teenage boy online and possession of child sex abuse videos.

It was the victim’s father who alerted police after he discovered sexually explicit messages between Jones and his son on Instagram.

The boy, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was interviewed by officers and described how he had initiated the exchanges with Jones.

Chester Crown Court heard on Friday (February 8) that the pair had exchanged nude pictures and had watched each other masturbate over the web.

They met on one occasion outside a local supermarket but no physical contact took place.

Mandy Nepal, prosecuting, said Jones had told the complainant “you are amazing” and made references to school uniforms in their correspondence.

Jones, who has worked with children for 20 years, was arrested and made no comment in interview.

Police forensic experts examined his phone and discovered 38 indecent images of children, including five at the worst category A.

These included four videos ranging from an 18-second clip of a child aged five being sexually abused to a two-minute movie involving a nine-year-old.

Judge Steven Everett said: “These are truly, truly disgusting.”

A victim impact statement by the victim focused on his anxiety about giving evidence in a trial – something that Jones spared him by pleading guilty.

“He has started counselling sessions,” Miss Nepal told the court.

Jo Maxwell, defending, said Jones was extremely remorseful and had shown empathy following his actions. He suffers with depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.

“He says there isn’t a day that goes by that he doesn’t think about the effect his actions have had on the victim, the victim’s family and others affected by the case,” she said.

She told the court that his arrest had come as a relief as he could now address his sexual “predilections” and had been engaging well with counselling services at Altcourse prison.

Miss Maxwell also said that at one point Jones had tried to dissuade the complainant from pursuing any kind of relationship with him and stressed the boy had instigated some sexual exchanges.

However, this in no way detracted from what he had done, as the adult of the two.

The barrister also made it clear there was no implication that Jones had ever abused his position as a teaching assistant to groom children.

Judge Everett said teaching and council staff could not have known about his sexual attraction to children, but added: “It is very worrying that he managed to slip under the radar.”

Sentencing, the judge said Jones had shown grooming and predatory behaviour, adding: “You knew full well what you were doing.”

He also stressed the impact that downloading abuse images has on the children depicted in them, many of whom may not even have survived.

“These are terrible offences,” he told Jones. “You have done terrible things.”

Jones, of Cherry Grove Road in Boughton, Chester, was ordered to sign on the sex offenders register for life and was made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order (SHPO) until further notice.

He will likely be barred from working with children for life.

* After the hearing, Detective Constable Victoria Hazlewood said: “I am delighted that Jones is now behind bars where he can no longer sexually exploit and pose a threat to boys.

“He took advantage of a boy he knew to be under the age of 16 for his own sexual gratification.

“This was a boy that had previously attended a school that Jones was working at as a teaching assistant.

“Jones sent the boy indecent images and videos and messages of a highly graphic sexual nature and incited his victim to do the same.

“He also downloaded and possessed more than 40 indecent images of children.

“I would like to thank all the officers involved in the investigation for their hard work in revealing the extent of Jones’ offending and I hope that the sentence he has been handed deters others from committing similar offences.”

Chief Inspector Carlos Brunes, of the Chester Local Policing Unit, added: “This case highlights the need for parents and guardians to warn their children of the dangers of communicating with people via social media, to check that they are using those things safely and to keep an eye out for any warning signs of sexual exploitation.

“Cheshire Constabulary takes any allegation of sexual exploitation extremely seriously and I hope that Jones’ conviction encourages anyone who has been subjected to similar offending to report it to us.

“Victims should never feel ashamed to talk about what has happened to them.

“They will receive the help and support they need from our specialist officers and other support agencies we work alongside and any allegation will be thoroughly investigated, with the wishes and the needs of the victim as our main priority.”

To report a sexual offence call Cheshire Constabulary on 101. Information can also be passed anonymously, via Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111.

For advice on identifying signs of sexual exploitation visit www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/child-abuse-and-neglect/child-sexual-exploitation/signs-symptoms-and-effects.