Law Courts, Birmingham`Queen Elizabeth Law Courts

A former Erdington dance teacher was convicted of sexually abusing some of his pupils on Thursday (30/11).

Neil Harris, aged 72, from 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.

Harris was charged with 21 counts of indecent assault on seven children in March this year.

After a three week trial at Birmingham Crown Court, Harris was found guilty of seven counts of indecent assault on four girls between the 1970s – 1980s.

Directors of the UTD, the association the school has belonged to for many years, said: “We are saddened to hear of the abuse some of our former pupils endured over the years as part of this school.

“We are supportive of anyone that wants to report anything of concern against Harris and are working with the police to make sure appropriate support is provided.”

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.”

Survivors of sexual abuse can also speak to the NSPCC 24 hours a day on 0808 800 5000 and more information can be found on their website: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/signs-symptoms-effects/non-re…

Counselling services and support for victims of sexual abuse can also be found here: http://www.rsvporg.co.uk/

Neil Harris is due to be sentenced on Friday 19 January at Birmingham Crown Court.