A MUSIC teacher has narrowly avoided an immediate prison sentence after admitting having sex with a sixth form student two decades ago.

Jeremy Matthews carried out the illicit affair for more than two years and it only came to an end when she moved away to start university.

Teesside Crown Court heard how Matthews' abuse of power had a devastating impact on his victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and she is now struggling with mental health problems and alcoholism.

Ian West, prosecuting, said Matthews first met the teenager when she was a schoolgirl but the sexual relationship didn't start until she was a college student.

Read more: Police are clamping down on young troublemakers and antisocial drivers

He told the court that Matthews, who was then in his mid-20s, was working at a school in Darlington at the time of the offence.

"She had no previous sexual experience," he said. "However, with the defendant she engaged in sex, sometimes in his car and sometimes back in his flat.

"He had a partner at the time, so this relationship was affectively an affair as far as he was concerned but the victim said she regarded it as a loving relationship.

"Indeed the defendant did tell her he was in love with her."

Mr West said the victim was left devastated when Matthews brought the relationship to an end.

In a victim impact statement, the woman said the 'relationship' had left her a shadow of her former self and struggling with depression.

She added: "I want to be able to let my guard down and feel trust in people of authority without thinking their power means taking advantage of me."

Her mother also read out a victim impact statement, she said Matthews' actions had deprived her daughter of a bright future and left her struggling to overcome alcohol problems.

Matthews, of of Whitwell Grange, Durham, pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual activity with the girl whilst in a position of trust in the early 2000s.

Caroline Abraham, in mitigation, said the father-of-two was now in a stable relationship and was caring for his seriously ill father.

She added: "He is well aware of the impact of these offences."

Judge Edward Legard sentenced Matthews to 12-months in prison, suspended for two years for the impact his offending had on the victim and her mother.

"I would like to pay tribute to them both and I hope you have listened very carefully to them both and take onboard their comments," he said.

"It is abundantly clear that your offending has had a profoundly debilitating impact on her – she has suffered and continues to suffer alcohol dependency and depression and describes herself as being a shadow of her former self."

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated Darlington Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054