Saturday, 22 June 2013

R v Forrest ~ Teacher and Pupil relationship ~ Sentencing

In the Crown Court at Lewes, Jeremy Forrest (now aged 30) has been convicted by a jury of child abduction.  He also pleaded guilty to 5 counts of sexual activity with a child.  Forrest was a teacher at Bishop Bell C of E School in Eastbourne, East Sussex.  He and the girl (aged 15) - (who may not be named) - developed a relationship which became sexual and which lasted for a considerable period.  The substance of the abduction charge is that they went to France on 20th September 2012 and a European Arrest Warrant was issued.  They were found in Bordeaux on 28th September.

Forrest was sentenced to five and half years imprisonment and the sentencing remarks of His Honour Judge Lawson QC are available via the Judiciary website - (HERE).   The Independent 21st July reported on the sentencing and also see The Guardian 'Jeremy Forrest jailed for pupil abduction and sexual offences.' 

Unfortunately, the judge's remarks do not specify
the exact offences.  Child abduction is an offence under section 2 of the Child Abduction Act 1984.    Presumably, the sexual activity offences are under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (SOA 2003).

The overall sentence comprises four and a half year terms on each of the 5 counts of sexual activity (these run concurrently) and, consecutively, one year for the adbuction.  In addition to imprisonment, Forrest is disqualified from working with children and is subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) indefinitely and is also subject to the notification requirements of Part 2 of the SOA 2003 indefinitely.

A Victim Personal Statement from the girl's mother was before the court.

The judge's sentencing remarks address the offending in a broad way and do not give specific details of the individual offences.  However, for a view that the sentencing may be excessive see UK Crime and it remains to be seen whether there is an appeal.

The case has some interesting features.

1. Judge Lawson said that texts had shown that Forrest was active in driving the relationship forward.  It was argued that she was willing for that to happen but, as the judge put it,  'to urge that argument is to ignore the rationale for the age of consent rules.'  

The SOA 2003 contains clear statements as to the ages involved in relation to the various offences - see, for example, section 9.    Abuse of trust is addressed by section 16 where the law aims to protect those under age 18.

2. The essence of the abduction offence is the removal of a person under age 16 from the lawful control of the parents - section 2 of the Child Abduction Act 1984.  The judge referred to a 'spurious defence' to this charge.  The evidence given by the girl in court varied from her original police interviews and fitted with Forrest's defence that he took her to France to prevent her succumbing to suicidal tendencies.  The judge said: "You have contested the abduction charge, raising a spurious defence so that she had to give evidence, evidence very different in content from her original account and designed to support it.  She had clearly received assistance in relation to what she should say."

3. A European Arrest Warrant (EAW) was issued.  The principle of ‘Specialty‘ applies - requiring the requesting State (here the UK) to state all the offences for which they wish to have the suspect extradited.  The warrant only specified the abduction offence.

4.  Forrest intended to contest the extradition (under the EAW) from France to the UK but, having been convicted of the abduction offence, he then waived his rights arising from specialty and the 5 charges of sexual activity were then introduced.  He pleaded guilty to those offences.

5. The process for getting the 5 counts of sexual activity to the Crown Court so that they could be sentenced by Judge Lawson is also of some interest.  When the charges were introduced, the judge sat as a Magistrates' Court temporarily so that the charges could be sent to the Crown Court whereupon the same judge dealt with them.

6. Child Abduction is NOT a listed offence for the purposes of the Sex Offenders Register but the sexual offences were so listed.

7. The facts of the case raise some points relating to teacher / pupil situations and the safeguarding steps which either teachers or a school might take if such situations arise.  It is reported that the East Sussex Local Safeguarding Children Board is looking at the case.   Such Boards are established under Part 2 of the Children Act 2004.  For further information about LSCBs and their functions see - Working together to safeguard children: March 2013

8. The Victim Personal Statement was that of the girl's mother.  Parents can be a 'victim' in these circumstances - see CPS Victim Personal Statements.


It is usual in cases involving children and young persons for the court to make an order under section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933.  The aim is to protect the identity of the child(ren) in question.

Reporting of criminal proceedings is a far from straightforward matter.  A useful document was published in 2009 by the then Judicial Studies Board - Reporting restrictions in the criminal courts.  

Since 1st October 2012, teachers are now given anonymity under section 13 of the Education Act 2011 - Law and Lawyers 29th September 2012 - Allegations against teachers - a remarkable restriction.


The 2012 Ofsted report on Bishop Bell School may be seen HERE.   The report gives the school an Overall Effectiveness of GOOD but notes that in order to improve further, the school must -  'Ensure that safeguarding practice is first class by:  putting into practice any learning which comes from the external review the school has commissioned.'

The report also noted that:

The school has a very detailed and comprehensive safeguarding policy, updated in May 2012, that is aligned with local authority procedures. Additional staff policies set out clear expectations relating to behaviour, for instance in relation to contact and communication with students. 

Designated teachers and other teaching, support and administrative staff receive regular safeguarding training appropriate to their levels of responsibility. The training includes a focus on professional boundaries and the importance of reporting concerns to senior staff. Recruitment and vetting arrangements are thorough and meet statutory requirements as set out in current government guidance. 

The two designated child protection members of staff have a secure understanding of their role and work in partnership with external agencies to safeguard students at risk and those who have child protection plans.

Senior leaders are working closely with the local authority and other agencies in relation to child protection. School leaders have commissioned an external review of its safeguarding arrangements from the local authority. A date has yet to be identified for this to take place. The school is keen to identify what it can do to improve upon its current practice. 

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