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20 January 2018, 07:15 | Updated: 20 January 2018, 07:22
A former Birmingham dance teacher has been sentenced to five years in prison for sexually abusing some of his pupils.
Neil Harris - of Manta Road in Tamworth - taught at a dance school in Erdington for over 50 years from 1957 until 2017.
Harris was investigated after a woman came forward in 2015. The woman, who was taught by him from 1983 onwards, conducted a Google search and identified Harris as still being an active teacher of a dance studio.
Because of her concerns following her own experiences, she spoke to police. She told them that on several occasions, Harris had sexually touched her when she was aged between nine and 13 years.
The woman spoke of how she remembered him pulling down her leotard top and looking down at her bare chest, before making comments such as “let’s see how you’re developing".
More people were identified by officers as an investigation was launched and allegations of further inappropriate touching and abuse followed.
After a three week trial at Birmingham Crown Court in November 2017, the 72-year-old was found guilty of seven counts of indecent assault on four girls between the 1970s - 1980s.
Today, sentencing judge at Birmingham Crown Court Peter Carr said: “The offences you committed are aggravated by the fact they were committed in the presence of other students who were your pupils during lessons. It is a gross breach of trust.
“You’ve had an effect on the women’s relationships with adults, their own children and being haunted by the experience for many years into adulthood. They make, as many of them do, distressing reading.”
Leading the investigation, DC Nichola Thomas from the force’s Public Protection Team said: “The bravery and courage of the individuals in coming forward is admirable and I am so very thankful to those who have reported their experiences to us.
“I would like to reassure anyone who has been through anything similar or feels someone of authority may have acted inappropriately towards them in the past, that we will investigate and prosecute those responsible.
“I would urge anyone who has ever thought about speaking to police about sexual abuse, to come forward. We are here to help you.
“If you want to speak to me about this case in particular, please don’t hesitate to contact me on 101 ext 845 6170."
Harris has also been put on the sex offenders register for life and been put on a sexual harm prevention order, which restricts his contact with anyone under the age of 16.