A DRIVING instructor accused of groping a teenage pupil claimed she was flirtatious in previous lessons.

Neil Hopper said he asked the 18-year-old student to tone down her behaviour.

The 37-year-old married father-of-three was giving evidence on the second day of his trial at Durham Crown Court.

He was accused of squeezing her buttocks during an "under bonnet" check, having pulled up on an industrial estate during a lesson.

Mr Hopper told the court that she misinterpreted the incident.

Having pointed out the various engine components, he said he was trying to "chivvy" her back into the car to continue the lesson.

He said his hand may have brushed against her back, but he denied that there was any inappropriate intention.

Mr Hopper was asked about using the words "gorgeous" and "sex bomb" in text messages to the girl to arrange future lessons.

He told defence barrister Tom Mitchell there was no sexual intention when he used the terms.

Mr Mitchell asked: "Were you trying to ingratiate yourself to her?"

Mr Hopper said: "No, not at all."

He was then asked by Mr Mitchell: "Looking at it now, being frank, would you have put it differently?"

Mr Hopper replied: "Yes, it was probably the biggest mistake of my life."

Asked why he used the phrases in the messages, he said: "I had used them before to distract pupils who were flirty with me."

Mr Hopper, of The Hollow, Crook, County Durham, denies a charge of sexual assault during the lesson on June 27 last year.

The case continues today.