Jeremy Forrest, a 30 year old teacher, was convicted of child abduction on 20th June 2013 following an 8 day trial. Sentencing has been adjourned until tomorrow.
Mr Forrest was a teacher at the same school as the victim (she cannot be named, so I will call her X). It seems to have been the case that when X was about 14 she developed a crush on Mr Forrest. He should have put a stop to it (and was repeatedly told so by colleagues) but a sexual relationship developed between them. The Court were told that shortly after X’s 15th birthday they had sexual intercourse for the first time.
Last summer matters came to a head in September. On 19th September 2012, X was spoken to and denied any relationship. Her phone was seized and this would reveal incriminating text messages and photographs. Fearing that the relationship was about to be discovered, they went off to France. It seems that X said she would take her own life unless Mr Forrest left the UK with her. He agreed and they went off to Bordeaux where he was caught.
The defence (according to the BBC) appears to have been one of necessity. In other words, Mr Forrest said that he went along with X for fear that she would commit suicide. This defence was never likely to succeed as he would had to have shown that there was no other option (such as going to the police).
Just before the verdict was announced, Mr Forrest mouthed ‘I love you’ to X. After the jury returned the guilty verdict, X apologised to Mr Forrest and left the Court in tears.
Why is this kidnap?
The case has widely been reported as being one of kidnap. Mr Forrest was not charged with that. Kidnap is a ‘common law’ offence that requires a taking away by ‘force or fraud’ and the lack of consent of the victim. Both elements were lacking her (whilst a child under the age of 16 can’t consent in law to sexual activity, the same does not apply to the offence of kidnap).
Mr Forrest was charged with the offence of Child Abduction (an offence under s2 Child Abduction Act 1984). This is committed if:
- without lawful authority or reasonable excuse,
- he takes or detains a child under the age of sixteen—
- so as to either (a) remove him from [her parents] or keep her out of the lawful control of [her parents]
The maximum sentence is 7 years. There are no guidelines for this offence which, coupled with the facts of the case, will make it a very difficult sentencing exercise for the Judge.
Were there other charges – wasn’t it illegal for him to have sex with her?
The background of sexual activity (including sexual intercourse) are all illegal. The fact that there was factual consent is not a defence.
What is not clear is whether these were the subjects of other charges and, if so, what they were. We would assume that Mr Forrest was charged, and pleaded guilty, to such offences, but that there were reporting restrictions imposed until the outcome of the trial.
No doubt this will all come out when he is sentenced and we will return to this tomorrow.