THE barrister defending an Eastbourne teacher who eloped to France with a 15-year-old pupil told the jury he had just wanted to look after the girl and stop her from coming to harm.
Jeremy Forrest, 30, formerly of Broyleside Cottages, Ringmer, did not make a defence case statement and relied upon his defence counsel, Ronald Jaffa, to put his case forward.
Mr Jaffa told the court that Forrest had been in an unhappy relationship and felt the pressure mounting.
He told the jury that Forrest “had been at a very low ebb” and that what he had done was wrong but that he had done it out of concern for the girl’s welfare. He said the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons had told a friend in a note that she “wanted to die” and was going to run away regardless. Mr Jaffa said Forrest going with her was to protect her from harm.
He acknowledged the relationship was wrong but said: “It is clear he fell in love with her.
“He cared for her and in particular her health problems and education. He should not have fallen in love with her. It is a breach of trust and it is wholly wrong.
“Teachers and pupils are flesh and blood and sometimes we human beings found ourselves falling in love, even if we know it’s inadvisable or we should not be doing it. It is a human emotion.”
Mr Jaffa went on to say that the court heard how Forrest tried to end the relationship which came from evidence given to the court by one of the girl’s best friends.
He said: “You heard yourselves; he tried to break up from her twice. He sent her a long letter saying ‘I am sorry it had to be like this, you have made me so happy but we have got to stop.’”
Mr Jaffa also reminded them that during her own evidence, the girl had said: “I was determined to go, adamant. He tried to dissuade me.”
Mr Jaffa said: “He was desperate to dissuade her, but so was she desperate to go. She said she was determined to go on her own.”
He added: “The prosecution told you it’s not a case of Romeo and Juliet and how right that is – in that play the lovers die in the end – a pair of star-crossed lovers is the way Shakespeare put it.
“Fortunately Jeremy chose to go to see her and to go with her. What could have happened if he had not?
“What would it matter if she had money or not, she could have hitchhiked, she could have ended up in a city alone, desperate or suicidal – she may even, God forbid, have done something worse than hitchhiking.”
He said that there was no doubt that what had happened must have been a “terrible ordeal for her mother and family” but added that according to the evidence, Forrest was trying to get her to change her mind but she would not do so.
Mr Jaffa said: “He was compelled to act because he believed and had good cause to fear that she may do something to herself.
“If he had taken her back to her mother or to the police or social services, no-one would have been able to stop her. It may have been the catalyst for worse consequences and what he did was accompany her. He never coerced her or induced her to accompany him – in fact it was quite the opposite, the evidence is that he said to her ‘it’s not a very good idea to run away’ – these are not the actions of someone who is actually guilty of abduction.”