Jeremy Forrest: Child Sex Teacher Jailed

Jeremy Forrest: Child Sex Teacher Jailed

A teacher who fled to France with his pupil and spent a week on the run has been jailed after admitting five counts of sexual activity with a child.

Jeremy Forrest, who was convicted by a jury yesterday of abducting the schoolgirl, pleaded guilty to the additional charges and was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison.

During his trial, the prosecution labelled him a "paedophile" and said he "groomed" the vulnerable teenager.

The 30-year-old insists he still loves the youngster, who broke down in tears and told him she was "sorry" as he was found guilty of her abduction.

She did not attend court for his sentencing but in a victim statement her mother said she had been "robbed" of her childhood.

"I feel like the worst mother in the world," she said. "Someone has got my child and I never saw it coming."

Passing sentence, the judge at Lewes Crown Court said Forrest "chose to ignore the cardinal rule of teaching" by starting a sexual relationship with the teenager shortly after her 15th birthday.

"Your behaviour in this period has been motivated by self-interest and has hurt and damaged many people - her family, your family, staff and pupils at the school and respect for teachers everywhere," Michael Lawson QC said.

"It has damaged you too but that was something you were prepared to risk. You now have to pay that price."

He added: "I have seen nothing in the evidence which shows that at any stage you tried to provide proper boundaries between yourself and her, to discourage her, or let other staff deal with the matter appropriately.

"Indeed all the evidence shows that you encouraged her infatuation and provided opportunities for her to communicate with you and be alone with you."

Rumours of Forrest's relationship with the teenager surfaced in February last year, when the pair were spotted holding hands during a flight on a school trip to Los Angeles.

The girl, now 16, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted having a crush on Forrest, who taught at Bishop Bell Church of England School in Eastbourne, East Sussex.

They exchanged flirty text messages, tweets and photographs but denied any wrongdoing when pressed by the school.

Fearing their relationship was about to be exposed when police were alerted last September, Forrest abducted the youngster and took her on a cross-Channel ferry to France, where they spent a week on the run.

The couple dyed their hair, assumed false names and dropped a mobile phone into the English Channel in an effort to avoid being caught, but were tracked down after a Europe-wide search.

In a statement read outside court, Forrest's family said he was "very sorry for his actions" during what they described as a "sorry episode for all concerned".

"Despite the verdict and today's sentence, there are many factors in this case which need to be examined and addressed, including the failure to properly act on early warnings," they said.

"We sincerely hope these are looked into and not simply swept under the carpet."

A spokesman for Bishop Bell School said the staff had only "very limited anecdotal hearsay and no evidence of relationship" when concerns were first raised.

He said that before Forrest fled the country, the school had intended to remove him from the classroom while an internal investigation into possible professional misconduct was carried out.

The spokesman said staff remained "deeply shocked by the actions of Mr Forrest and his betrayal of the trust that was placed in him".

"It is important that the strongest possible message is sent to all who work with children that they hold a position of responsibility and trust for the lives, and wellbeing, of those in their care," he said.

"We take our responsibility extremely seriously and our safeguarding policies and procedures are robust.

"However, we are determined to implement any learning from these events to ensure that all pupils at the school are as safe as they possibly could be."

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Ling, of Sussex Police, said Forrest was in a "position of responsibility, authority and trust over the children in his care, which included this young, vulnerable victim".

"He grossly abused the trust placed in him and his actions caused distress and anxiety amongst parents, family members and the school community," he said.

Nigel Pilkington, of the Crown Prosecution Service, added: "We're pleased that Forrest has been sentenced for the full extent of his criminality, sparing his victim and her family from having to go through another trial."

Forrest, of Petts Wood, London, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for each count of sexual activity. The sentences will run at the same time. A one-year sentence for abduction will run consecutively.

The judge also imposed a sexual offences prevention order on Forrest, banning him from working or volunteering with children and unsupervised contact with children forever.

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes