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- British judge
A deputy headteacher has been jailed for 13 years and four months after she and her partner filmed themselves raping and sexually abusing a child.
Julie Morris, 44, pleaded guilty at Liverpool Crown Court on Wednesday to 18 offences, including two counts of rape, nine of inciting a child under the age of 13 to engage in sexual activity and two of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child.
She also admitted three counts of taking indecent images of a child, one of engaging in sexual communication with a child and one of possessing indecent images of a child.
The court heard she and partner David Morris filmed themselves abusing and raping the victim, a girl under 13, in a series of videos discovered on his phone.
The teacher, wearing glasses, a face mask and a cream cable-knit jumper, was also ordered to serve a licence period of four years after the prison sentence.
David Morris was jailed for 16 years, with an extended licence period of four years, for 34 offences, including seven counts of rape and 13 counts of causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity.
Honorary Recorder of Liverpool judge Andrew Menary said: “Every now and again you see cases, the circumstances of which are almost beyond belief. This is one of those cases.
“It demonstrates that human depravity really knows no depths.”
The videos showed Julie Morris giggling as the abuse took place, the court heard.
The court was told she was safeguarding lead at St George’s Central C of E Primary School in Wigan but the offences are not related to her employment there.
John Wyn Williams, prosecuting, said the couple met on dating app Plenty of Fish in 2016 after both had separated from their partners and the relationship “quickly became intensely sexual”.
He said: “The communication between them became graphic and depraved which led to some of their sexual fantasies becoming a reality.”
The court heard Julie Morris, of Ancroft Drive, Hindley, would also take pictures of other children, which were not indecent, and would send them to her partner to “feed his predilection to sexually abusing young children”.
Mr Wyn Williams said the couple’s “sordid secret” was revealed when police found a conversation about sexual abuse of children involving David Morris in a phone seized during a search warrant.
David Morris, 52, of Sandfield Road, Eccleston, St Helens, was arrested but cautioned and released and a number of devices were seized, which showed the recordings of rape and sexual abuse, the court heard.
Mr Wyn Williams said both defendants were arrested the following day as they appeared to be trying to evade police.
He said: “They were on their way to the Lake District in a camper van with £10,000 in their possession.”
As well as videos and images on David Morris’s phone, officers trawled through 175,000 pages of messages between the couple, revealing sexually explicit communications.
In the messages, they described the victim as “our little plaything”.
Every now and again you see cases, the circumstances of which are almost beyond belief. This is one of those cases.
Honorary Recorder of Liverpool judge Andrew Menary
The pair also set up a group chat with the victim in which they would talk about how they would abuse her.
Paul Becker, defending Julie Morris, said she had “lost everything in life”, including her reputation, career and home.
He said: “She was held in high regard prior to her offending.”
He said that when she met David Morris she was at a “low ebb” after she discovered her husband of 15 years had been unfaithful.
In interview, Julie Morris admitted the offences but claimed the victim had wanted to take part.
Judge Menary said: “That last statement is breath-taking in its inappropriateness.”
Charles Lander, defending David Morris, said he had showed genuine remorse and was “under no illusions” that he would be going to prison for a long time.
He said the couple’s “toxic relationship” had come to an end.
Mairead Neeson, senior prosecutor at the CPS said the case was one of the worst she had seen in her career, adding: “The descriptions of what they did are so horrific that when I finished reading them. I burst into tears.
“It’s a young child whose innocence has been stolen.”
Speaking outside court, Detective Chief Inspector Bev Hyland said: “What makes this case even more concerning is the fact that Julie Morris held a position of trust as a teacher, she held the role of safeguarding lead, and yet she saw fit in her own personal life to completely disregard all of the responsibilities and the trust that her role held.”