A MARRIED science teacher who had a two-year affair with a schoolgirl is behind bars as his life and career lie in ruins.
Paul Burford was yesterday (Friday, January 10) locked up for three-and-a-half years and banned from working with children when he appeared at Teesside Crown Court.
He stood with his head bowed as details of the "wholly inappropriate" relationship were revealed publicly for the first time.
Burford's wife has left him, he rarely sees their daughter, and he has lost his high-flying job as an assistant headteacher.
The court heard how Burford was in his 20s and the girl was aged between 14 and 16 when they had sex.
He bought her alcohol and cigarettes, took her to concerts, and they wore matching rings when together.
Burford, 38, was a teacher at Branksome School in Darlington and lived in the area with his wife.
It is understood his wife was pregnant at the time of the affair, and they now have a child - although they are estranged.
The victim came forward last year after having a child of her own and deciding she should tell the police about her past.
Prosecutor David Lamb said she also spoke to a work colleague, who advised her to report what Burford had done to her.
When arrested last May, he told police he thought he was in love and believed he had found a soulmate.
Burford, now of Hyde Park Road, Plymouth, admitted 14 charges of engaging in sexual activity with a child at an earlier hearing.
His barrister, Amrit Jandoo, said: "It is accepted by Mr Burford from the outset that this was a wholly inappropriate relationship.
"There is little to suggest there was a controlling aspect, but he would have to accept that he should have had the foresight that this was completely and utterly wrong.
"He has caused a devastating impact upon this girl's life, his own life and, of course, his immediate family.
"He was an assistant headteacher when he was arrested, with ambition to go further, but that has now come to an end.
"It is highly unlikely he will ever, ever return to teaching. He will certainly not be working with young people ever again.
"He understands that and that is something that is devastating to him.
"Last year, with his father on his death-bed, he disclosed these allegations to him. He is exceptionally distraught that that is the last living memory his father will have of him."
Judge Tony Briggs told Burford: "The fact that this happened at all is serious. It is perfectly obvious custody is inevitable."
They had sex in lay-bys in his car, and at his homes in Ridgeway, Darlington, and in nearby Sadberge while his wife was away.
He took the girl to concerts in Sheffield to see the likes of Whitesnake and former Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore, and also had sex in motorway service stations on the way home.
Judge Briggs added: "Important mitigation in a case of this nature is that you pleaded guilty and made full and frank admissions.
"You did not seek to prevaricate at all and that is something that is far from always present in cases of this nature."
A spokeswoman for Darlington Borough Council welcomed the sentence, saying: "This was a clear breach of the trust that pupils, parents and school leaders place in teachers."