Decorated former Hartlepool soldier jailed for abuse of schoolgirl
A decorated former soldier who tried to have a sexual relationship with a teenage girl has been jailed.
Kenneth Hopps, 33, who served with the army in Afghanistan, was sentenced to 16 months prison after he pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual activity with a child and one of making an indecent image of a child.
Teesside Crown Court heard he groomed the victim, who cannot be identified, in text messages and “could not keep his hands off her”.
Despite protests Hopps inappropriately touched her at least three times.
The court heard her education and mental health had significantly suffered as a result, even causing her to turn to drink and drugs.
She said in a statement read out in court: “Kenneth Hopps ruined my life.”
Richard Bennett, prosecuting, said: “The defendant falls to be sentenced for three offences of sexual activity.
"There was grooming behaviour used.”
He described how during one of the incidents the victim said to him: “Can’t you just leave me alone?”
Mr Bennett said the offending was aggravated because of the “very significant” age difference.
Hopps also had a nude photograph of a juvenile on his phone that had been taken without them knowing.
He pleaded guilty on the day he was due to go on trial in May and has since been discharged from the army.
A probation report assessed him as a medium to high risk of reoffending after he denied any wrongdoing.
Kristian Cavanagh, defending, appealed to the judge to suspend the sentence as Hopps had no previous convictions, he admitted the offences and said there had been no further offending several years on.
He said: “He’s willing to engage with the probation service to address the issue that led to this offending.”
Mr Cavanagh added Hopps, formerly of Hartlepool and now of Mary Munnion Quarter, Chelmsford, was awarded the Operational Service Medal in 2012 and was the main carer for his disabled partner.
But Judge Jonathan Carroll said Hopps’ lack of remorse and other factors meant prison had to be immediate.
Judge Carroll added: “The harm you have caused to her is simply overwhelming and cannot be ignored.”
Hopps will also be on the sex offenders register for 10 years.