Jeremy Forrest trial: Teacher jailed for abduction and child sex

media captionThe BBC's Duncan Kennedy explains how the case unfolded

A teacher has been jailed for five and a half years for abducting and having sex with a 15-year-old pupil he ran off with to France.

Jeremy Forrest, 30, from Petts Wood, London, was convicted at Lewes Crown Court on Thursday of child abduction.

He did not initially face sex offence charges for reasons linked to his extradition from France, but admitted them in court just before sentencing.

The maths teacher groomed the girl at his Eastbourne school, the court heard.

'Encouraged her infatuation'

Sussex Police is now investigating whether Forrest, who did not give evidence during the trial, contacted the teenager in a bid to alter how she gave evidence in court.

Judge Michael Lawson QC has questioned the evidence given by the teenager in court, as it varied from her original police interviews and fitted with Forrest's defence that he took her to France to prevent her from succumbing to suicidal tendencies.

Sentencing, Judge Lawson told Forrest he had ignored the cardinal rule of teaching.

He also misled colleagues, claiming rumours about the relationship were the teenager's lies, said the judge.

image captionThe judge said Forrest's behaviour had damaged many people

"It was her first intimate relationship," said Judge Lawson.

The judge told Forrest he encouraged the girl's infatuation and that text messages showed he drove the sexual relationship forward.

In taking her to France, he subjected the girl's family to "appalling distress".

Judge Lawson told Forrest: "Your behaviour over this period had 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.

"It has damaged you too, but that was something you were prepared to risk.

"You now have to pay that price."

'Gifted teacher'

He also barred Forrest from working with children for life and ordered him to sign the sex offenders register.

The trial heard the pupil had just turned 15 when Forrest started a sexual relationship with her.

They had sex in his car, in hotels and at his marital home, the court heard.

Fearing they were about to be exposed, Forrest booked them on a cross-Channel ferry from Dover to Calais on 20 September last year.

They spent seven days in France before they were spotted in Bordeaux.

During the hearing, the court heard statements from the mother of the teenager, saying she felt like "the worst mother in the world".

She said: "Someone got my child and I never saw it coming or saw it while it was happening."

image captionJeremy Forrest denied abducting the schoolgirl but was found guilty on Thursday

Defence lawyer Ronald Jaffa said he did not seek to excuse what his client had done but wanted to place his actions in context.

The court heard Forrest, a gifted teacher, had been in an unhappy marriage and had sought medical help for depression.

Mr Jaffa said Forrest's caring attitude led the girl to ask him for help with a number of issues and he later realised she had a crush on him.

"He unfortunately fell in love and crossed the line at a time when he was in a very low position and depressed," said Mr Jaffa.

After the sentencing, Forrest's family said they hoped the case would lead to a full examination of what went wrong.

'Very sorry'

His mother Julie, brother Tom and sister Carrie Hanspaul stood on the court steps while solicitor Henrietta Ronson read their statement.

"This case has been very difficult from the start for everyone involved," she said.

"This is a sorry episode for all concerned and Jeremy is very sorry for his actions.

media captionSolicitor Henrietta Ronson: "This is 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.

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

Nigel Pilkington, head of the South East complex casework unit at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: "These additional charges concerning sexual activity with a child were an important part of the prosecution case that the CPS was determined to bring before the courts.

"This has not been a straightforward legal process, as it has involved complex legal proceedings in both France and at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

"We are grateful to the French legal authorities for their considerable assistance in this matter."

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