A FORMER teaching assistant has been found guilty of sexually assaulting schoolgirls while he worked at a school in Tynedale.

Treva McCartney (55) of Theresa Street, Blaydon, denied nine charges of sexually assaulting a child under the age of 13.

He had been on trial at Newcastle Crown Court since Monday, January 21, and on Wednesday, the jury delivered a guilty verdict on seven of the nine charges.

The charges related to a period between October 2014 and March 2016, when he was a teaching assistant at a school in Tynedale. The girls, aged seven and eight, had accused him of touching them inappropriately on their bottom or legs at school.

The court heard some of the incidents took place in a room which McCartney said in a police interview, “scared him to pieces”. He added during his evidence in court that this was because the room was small.

But the court also heard that after McCartney’s arrest in March 2016, police seized his phone and computer and found 44 indecent photographs of children.

Prosecutor Jonathan Walker said the photographs showed he had “a clear, unequivocal interest in young girls”.

“So no wonder the small room scared him,” he continued. “No wonder he didn’t like being alone with kids. What an odd comment for a one-to-one worker to say. Why? Because those urges, that took him to trawl long and hard on the internet for those sorts of images, started to kick in.”

McCartney denied this, adding: “I just didn’t do it. I didn’t do what I have been accused of.”

He said that he would sometimes put his hand on a child’s back to “encourage them along” but never any further down their back. In defence, David Comb raised questions over whether the girls’ accounts had been influenced by each other.

He said: “It’s a very dangerous path to go down when assuming all eight-year-old children are the same and when you start to assume that eight-year-old children only tell the truth – they don’t.”

Following the verdict, an NSPCC spokesman said: “It is clear McCartney exploited his position of trust to commit a series of sexual offences against young girls in a place that they should have felt safe.

“An enormous amount of trust is placed in school staff to ensure the wellbeing and safety of children, and he breached that trust time and time again for his own sick gratification.

“We hope McCartney’s victims feel some justice has been achieved today, and that this helps in their recovery after their ordeal.”

McCartney is due back in court for sentencing on March 1.