A former teaching assistant who sexually assaulted a young girl during an improvised game of Twister has been jailed.

Stephen Payne sexually assaulted four different girls aged between eight and 12 in his home in Brighton across a period of nearly two decades.

All of the offences occurred while Payne worked as a teaching assistant at Dharma Primary School in Patcham. One of his victims was linked to his time at the school.

Payne, 69, was found guilty of 13 sexual offences after a court heard he assaulted three of his victims while measuring their height against a wooden beam in his home.

A fourth victim was assaulted after Payne initiated an improvised game of Twister.

All of the offences took place between 2001 and 2018, however Sussex Police believe he “may have more victims”.

PC Donna Bagguley, of Brighton and Hove’s safeguarding investigation unit, said: “Stephen Payne abused the trust of his young victims in the most appalling way.


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“Each of them has shown extraordinary courage to report his crimes and give evidence against him. We believed them, a jury believed them and now Payne will spend a significant amount of time behind bars.

“We believe Payne may have more victims. If you or anyone you know is a victim of a sexual offence – no matter how long ago – please report it to the police. We will believe you, we will support you and we will do everything we can to get you justice.”

Payne worked at Dharma Primary School in Patcham throughout his offending. He was first employed in 1994 up to the day he was arrested in March, 2020.

Dharma Primary School closed in 2020.

The Argus: Dharma Primary School before it closed in 2020Dharma Primary School before it closed in 2020 (Image: Google Street View)

Payne was charged with nine counts of indecent assault of a girl under 16 as well as three counts of engaging in non-penetrative sexual activity with a girl aged 13-15 and one count of assault by touching a girl under 13.

He was found guilty by a jury at Lewes Crown Court on January 26.

Today, Payne was sentenced to six and a half years in jail and given a sexual harm prevention order, a restraining order and added to the sex offenders register for life.