Bexleyheath Academy teacher Stuart Kerner sentenced for pupil affair
A religious studies teacher who had sex with a pupil at school has avoided being sent to prison by a judge who said the victim "stalked him".
Stuart Kerner, 44, from Kent, conducted an affair with the girl, then 16, at Bexleyheath Academy, south-east London.
Handing Kerner a suspended sentence, Judge Joanna Greenberg QC said the victim had become "obsessed" with him.
The judge told Kerner: "Her friends described her, accurately in my view, as stalking you."
A charity, Enough Abuse UK, said the sentence was unduly lenient.
The judge added: "If grooming is the right word to use, it was she who groomed you, (and) you gave in to temptation."
The married teacher, who was also the vice-principal at the school, received an 18-month sentence, suspended for 18 months.
Kerner, of Aylesford, was found guilty by a jury last month of two counts of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust.
During the case at Inner London Crown Court, jurors were told what started out as a schoolgirl crush turned into an 18-month affair, which was discovered in 2013.
It was said Kerner took the girl's virginity on a yoga mat in an empty room at Bexleyheath Academy, the same week his wife had a miscarriage.
Kerner later drove the teenager to her home where the pair kissed and cuddled and had sex, the court heard.
'Intelligent and manipulative'
Judge Greenberg said Kerner was "emotionally fragile" due to complications with his wife's pregnancy.
She added that this did not excuse his behaviour, but said it did help explain why someone with an "exemplary" character would commit such offences.
Kerner, who denied all the charges he faced, was cleared of four counts of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust and two counts of sexual activity with a child that related to alleged behaviour when the victim was only 15.
Judge Greenberg said she believed the victim was "intelligent and manipulative" and "showed no compunction" about lying when it suited her.
However, the judge also said the victim was a vulnerable girl.
She told Kercher: "The law demands that you are the responsible adult and that you show restraint, and we know that you failed to."
'Abused his position'
He was placed on the sex offenders' register indefinitely and barred from working with children, also indefinitely.
In a video interview with police, the schoolgirl said: "It felt special. But, I dunno, it wasn't really. And admitting that does kind of hurt."
Marilyn Hawes, a former teacher and founder of the charity Enough Abuse UK which provides support for abuse victims, said the judge had been unduly lenient in her sentencing.
She said: "She was still a pupil and she had a right, as did the parents or her carer, to expect she would be secure and safe in those hours in school with someone who had been given that trust, and it was a total breach of trust.
"I just do not understand where the judge was coming from when she says she stalked him. He abused his position."