A SCHOOL bus driver who sexually assaulted a disabled pupil in his care has been jailed for nine months.
Jeffrey Richardson got rid of the girl’s escort before driving his minibus down a narrow lane and sticking his tongue down the teenager’s throat.
Two men driving past on their way to work saw what they thought was a couple kissing intimately in the front of the minibus.
But when Richardson saw them he pushed the girl away and they noticed that she looked about seven or eight years old and was wearing a school jumper.
The men were sufficiently concerned that they called the cops.
The court heard earlier that the schoolgirl was 16-years-old but looked younger because she suffered from a chromosome deficiency called Smith-Magenis Syndrome.
The condition meant she was incapable of consenting to any sexual contact or of realising the possible repercussions from having sex.
Richardson, 47, earlier pled guilty to sexually assaulting the youngster in Broxburn, West Lothian, on October 31 last year.
His actions were branded a “gross abuse of trust” when he appeared for sentence at Livingston Sheriff Court.
He was forced to move from Whitburn to Edinburgh as a result of the court case and appeared yesterday sporting a full beard in a bid to change his appearance.
Alan Jackson, defending, said Richardson, who fully admitted his culpability, had suffered a number of severe personal difficulties.
As a result of the case, his marriage had broken down, he had lost his job and would never be able to work as a taxi driver again.
He added: “It’s a very, very serious matter. In terms of his behaviour the impact on the complainer is without question going to be not insignificant, although perhaps not at the moment.
“The public interest in my submission would be better served by dealing with him in the community to investigate underlying issues and challenge his denials.”
Sheriff Susan Craig told Richardson that custody was the only suitable punishment for what he’d done.
She said: “After the escort left you alone at your request, you drove the vehicle with the girl in it to a quiet spot and you carried out this assault.
“That assault was witnessed by two bystanders who initially believed what they were witnessing in the early hours of the morning was a passionate embrace between two adults.
“In fact the victim had special needs and you were carrying out a sexual assault on her.”
She said Richardson’s background details went some way to explaining some of his difficulties but they in no way excused his behaviour.
She added: “It’s very clear to me that this young girl was grossly abused by you in circumstances where she had every right to treated with respect and not treated the way you treated her.
“These circumstances are such that only a custodial sentence is appropriate and this is at the top end of the scale.”
Sheriff Craig said putting Richardson under supervision would allow him to access support and help to address his underlying problems, but there was no reason he couldn’t access that help in prison.
She said: “The decision of this court is not intended to be therapeutic. It’s a punishment.”
In addition to jailing Richardson for nine months, Sheriff Craig told him his name would remain on the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years.
Outside court, the girl’s grandmother expressed her delight at the prison sentence.
She said: “This is not the first time he tried to get my granddaughter on her own. He was grooming her for a long time.
“We’re glad he’s off the streets and that he’ll never be in a position to do this again.”