South Tyneside foster carer jailed for indecent assault after 'taking advantage' of schoolboy

An award winning foster mum has been put behind bars for a sex attack on a schoolboy after a party three decades ago.

Jean McGarry, who has looked after around 50 children during her career, "took advantage of" a teenage boy who she had been "flirting with" and had planned to target in advance.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the now 65-year-old "jumped on" the victim, who had been drinking gin, as they walked through a quiet cut together.

The attack came to an end when a passer-by walked through the thoroughfare and disturbed it.

Jean McGarry

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McGarry, of Colwyn Parade, Hebburn, who has now lost her position as foster carer, denied indecent assault but was found guilty by a jury after a trial at the end of last year.

The court heard the victim was not one of McGarry’s foster children.

Judge Amanda Rippon said she accepted the offence was a "one off, out of character incident" but jailed McGarry, who had been on bail, for 22 months.

McGarry must now sign the sex offenders register for 10 years.

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Judge Rippon told McGarry: "I am satisfied you intended to try to have sexual intercourse with him but you were disturbed by a passer-by so stopped.

"Your victim had been drinking alcohol and, I have no doubt, you were aware he had been drinking alcohol and was disinhibited.

"You flirted with him and prepared him for your sexual advances later.

"There was significant planning, I am entirely satisfied it was not a spontaneous act by you as you walked through the cut but planned by you.

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"You were taking advantage of a schoolboy who had been drinking."

Judge Rippon told McGarry, who has never been in trouble before and who submitted references to her previous positive character to the court, there was "significant mitigation" in her case.

The judge added: "You have led what is properly described as an exemplary life. You received an award for fostering.

"I have read references which speak extremely highly of you."

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Judge Rippon said McGarry acted "entirely out of character" and may have been drinking herself that night.

The court heard McGarry's victim, who gave evidence at trial, has made no complaint of any emotional impact as a result of the offence.

Judge Rippon rejected any suggestion that the prison sentence could be suspended in McGarry's case.

The judge said: "I cannot treat her any differently than I would treat a man and I am not going to.

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"I would not suspend sentence on a man and I am not going to suspend sentence on her."

Gavin Doig, defending, said the case has had a "considerable impact" on McGarry, who has health problems.

Mr Doig added: "She has always been aware a custodial sentence is certainly likely, if not inevitable.

"This is not a defendant who thought for a moment her gender would save her.

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"She has been preparing for a custodial sentence. She has not assumed she would be let off lightly.

"She has been punished substantially already by the loss of her position as a foster carer, which she valued so highly."