Teacher who preyed on schoolgirls is jailed

A PE teacher who preyed on vulnerable pupils at the North Lanarkshire school where he taught has been jailed for 16 months.

Bruce Rankin abused one girl who was being bullied and another who was suffering from depression.

The victims came forward years later after hearing that their ex-teacher had been convicted of molesting other pupils.

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Rankin, 61, of Strathaven, admitted charges of lewd and libidinous behaviour and indecent assault when he appeared at Hamilton Sheriff Court on Friday.

He was jailed for 18 months at the same court in 2017 for abusing three girls, including two pupils at the same school.

But that sentence was quashed at the Appeal Court after he had served just 70 days. He was instead put under supervision for three years and ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid community work.

Neil Thomson, prosecuting, said the victims in the latest case went to the police after seeing media reports of Rankin’s 2017 conviction.

Rankin abused them between 2007 and 2010.

The first victim was aged between 13 and 15 at the time.

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She had been bullied at school and thought at first that Rankin was only trying to comfort her when he cuddled her and told her not to let people “get her down”.

Mr Thomson added: “Sometimes he would put his arms around her and touch her breasts through her clothing.

“The first time this happened she thought it might have been an accident, but this behaviour was repeated on a number of occasions - too many to be accidental.

“He also touched the girl’s buttocks under the guise of trying to hurry her along.”

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Mr Thomson said the second victim was aged 16 and was “anxious and depressed”.

She was allowed to study alone in the school library and Rankin would join her there. He called her ‘Little Princess’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’, and would cuddle her.

The fiscal said: “While they were sitting the accused would touch her leg and keep his hand there while talking to her.

“On more than one occasion he rubbed the inside of her thigh.

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“On one occasion she slammed a book down on her lap which caused him to pull away.”

Rankin retired from teaching in 2014.

Defence agent Marco Guarino said that dad of two Rankin has been “overwhelmed by remorse” and has the support of his wife and daughters.

Mr Guarino suggested the offences were less serious than the earlier ones and a jail sentence this time would be “inappropriate and excessive”.

He added that Rankin was assessed as being at “the very lowest risk” of re-offending.

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But Sheriff Douglas Brown said Rankin was guilty of a breach of trust, adding:

“The court has to make plain that such behaviour by a teacher is completely unacceptable and must be dealt with severely.

“Given the serious nature of the offences, the only appropriate sentence is imprisonment”

Rankin was also put on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.

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Meanwhile a charity which safeguards children welcomed the sentence

A spokesperson for NSPCC Scotland said: “As a teacher, Rankin should have been there to support and protect pupils in his care but instead he abused their trust and exploited them for his sexual gratification.

“This case highlights that however much time has passed since the abuse, victims will be listened to when they speak out and justice can be achieved.

“NSPCC Scotland works to help prevent abuse and neglect and anyone worried about a child or about past abuse can contact our helpline to report concerns.”

Anyone concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000, while Childline is there for young people on 0800 1111 or via www.childline.org.uk