Nottingham

'Sexual thrill' strangler James Morton jailed for Hannah Pearson manslaughter

Hannah Pearson Image copyright Pearson family
Image caption Hannah Pearson had "a second chance at life" after recovering from anorexia, her mother said

A man who accidentally strangled a 16-year-old girl to death while pursuing a "sexual thrill" has been jailed for 12 years for her manslaughter.

James Morton, 24, enjoyed dominating women, having watched the behaviour in pornographic films and experimented with at least one ex-girlfriend.

He started to strangle Hannah Pearson - his friend's girlfriend - without any warning or permission, the judge said.

Her naked body was found in his bedroom in Newark, Nottinghamshire, last July.

A jury cleared him of murder but convicted him of her manslaughter.

In mitigation, his defence barrister Shaun Smith said Morton had been "pursuing his sexual thrill without having regard for the consequences of it".

Image copyright Nottinghamshire Police
Image caption James Morton was cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter

Hannah's mother, Dawn Pearson, stood up at Nottingham Crown Court to read a statement describing the impact of the "horrifying act" on her family.

"A parent should not have to bury their own child, a child who has not even had a chance to live a life on her own," she said.

Mrs Pearson explained how Hannah had been given a "second chance at life", after recovering from anorexia.

"Hannah made many friends and lived her life to the full after being in hospital for so many years," she said.

"She had been given a whole new lease of life, a second chance at life, and she was making the most of it."

Image copyright Pearson family
Image caption Hannah was living her life "to the full" after being in hospital for many years, her mother said

Hannah, from Marston in Lincolnshire, met Morton for the first time on 23 July 2016, the day of her death.

The trial heard that she went back to his parents' home in Pierson Street in Newark without her boyfriend, Jed Hope, because Mr Hope did not have enough money for the train.

Morton gave Hannah wine, port and beer, then put her in his bed at the end of the evening, the court heard.

Morton claimed that Hannah started kissing him, and Mrs Justice Carr said she could not be sure on the evidence that Hannah "did not instigate some sexual activity".

However, the judge said Hannah did not consent to being strangled.

Image caption Hannah went back to Morton's house in Pierson Street, where he lived with his parents

"You enjoyed the domination, something which you had seen on a porn DVD previously, and also tried with at least one previous girlfriend," the judge said.

"I am sure, as the jury was, that Hannah did not give valid and informed consent to this escalated activity in the knowledge that it carried the risk of some bodily injury.

"She had never been involved in such activity before, was very intoxicated and, if not totally unconscious, then certainly confused and not thinking straight.

"She was in no position to object, trapped underneath you whilst you strangled her."

'Genuine' remorse

Morton phoned 999 after realising Hannah was not breathing, but it took him 20 minutes to do so.

The judge said he was "preoccupied" with his own "wellbeing and position" for at least some of this time, which was "a chilling aspect of the case".

However, she said he had "shown remorse which I accept is genuine".

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