AN occupational therapist has been jailed after admitting having a sexual relationship with one of her patients who had learning difficulties.

A court heard Valerie McLeod had a 'consensual relationship' with a man in his 30s at a secure unit in the Ribble Valley.

The 53-year-old pleaded guilty to two offences under section 38 and one under section 37 of the Sexual Offences Act.

This involved kissing the man at least five times, touching him over his clothes and intimate sexual touching.

Burnley Crown Court heard the victim had never seen McLeod, from Accrington, naked during their 'relatively short lived' relationship.

The court was told that the pair started the relationship in 2015 and it was uncovered when 'intimate' letters between the pair were intercepted.

Around March 2016 staff started becoming 'increasingly concerned' at the relationship between the pair, prosecutor Susan Carter said.

The court heard the relationship caused tension within the unit and the victim 'made threats' to other residents.

Ms Carter said McLeod and the victim 'both understood it was wrong' and McLeod was concerned about her employment.

She resigned from her role when the relationship was uncovered, while the man was moved to a different home.

The court heard the patient gave McLeod, of Belgrave Street, a Pandora gift card during their relationship, along with a thank-you card for her work.

Investigations were held both internally and by police into the relationship between the pair.

For the defence, Phillip Holden, said McLeod 'pleaded guilty at the first opportunity' and 'was very, very unlikely to appear in court again'.

Mr Holden said the defendant had 'lost her good name' as a result of the sexual activity and her relationship with her three grandchildren also suffered.

The court heard following the incident social services had to be present anytime she was with them, depriving her of one on one time with them.

Mr Holden said: "Proceedings had a real effect on her.

"She was terrified of the position she put herself in.

"She has a very good work ethic, and found herself a new job after leaving."

The court was told the victim was sentenced under the mental health act age 17 and had mild learning disabilities.

Ms Carter described him as a 'vulnerable adult with mental health problems'.

McLeod had worked as an occupational therapist 'for many years' prior to the incident and the hearing was told she had a 'responsibility and obligation' of care towards the patient.

Ms Carter said McLeod would engineer opportunities for the pair to spend one on one time together, often in rooms without cameras.

She also said the victim had 'never had such an intimate relationship' and he 'enjoyed and liked it'.

The court heard McLeod was someone who was 'clearly highly qualified' for her role and she would have been aware of the victim's mental health problems.

Ms Carter also said McLeod neglected the welfare of other service users to spend more time with the victim.

Mr Holden said the mother-of-three had been having personal problems, including her mother being diagnosed with cancer.

Judge Jonathan Gibson, jailing her for six months, said: "She overstepped the boundaries between herself and the client.

"Even though the victim wanted sexual activity it had a detrimental effect on his health and treatment."

McLeod was also placed on the sex offenders list for the next 10 years.