Sussex Police have said that they were determined that Eastbourne teacher Jeremy Forrest should be charged with five counts of sexual activity with a child.
The 30-year-old pleaded guilty to those offences at Lewes Crown Court today while appearing for sentencing for child abduction, which he was found guilty of at the same court yesterday (20 June).
Forrest wass been sentenced to a total of five and half years’ imprisonment for child abduction of a 15-year-old girl and five counts of sexual activity with her.
A sexual offences prevention order was issued by the court preventing Jeremy Forrest from contacting any child under 16 online without consent of an appropriate adult. He will also be placed on the Sexual Offenders Register.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Ling said: “Jeremy Forrest has been jailed today after grossly abusing the trust placed in him.
“After months of sexual abuse he abducted a 15-year-old pupil, leaving her family distressed and not knowing what had happened to her. He was in a position of responsibility, authority and trust over children in his care, something parents and the wider community expect to be upheld at all costs.
“An investigation was started the moment concerns were reported to Sussex Police and did not stop until we knew the girl was safe. At no point was the investigation halted and we were still conducting enquiries when the two were first reported missing.
“This was a fast-time and dynamic operation which involved complex liaison with other authorities in this country and abroad. It was a complicated and long process to be able to charge Forrest with the sexual offences and I am pleased we have been able to do this today.
“The police and Crown Prosecution Service were determined that Forrest should be charged with these further offences. We are pleased that this case is now complete, without the additional pressure on witnesses to re-attend court.
“The whole ordeal has put enormous strain on the girl and her family. I hope they can now put this behind them.”
During the trial the court heard how Forrest, 30, and the 15-year-old girl sparked a significant national and international investigation by Sussex Police after the girl was reported missing on 20 September last year when she failed to turn up for school.
Forrest, formerly of Ringmer and a maths teacher at Bishop Bell School where the girl was a pupil, had taken her to France.
Police have clarified today that they were notified on September 14 that a picture of Forrest may be on the girl’s mobile phone.
On Monday, September 17, the police child protection team arranged a joint strategy team meeting with children’s services, the local authority, the school and police child protection team to meet on Tuesday, September 18 in line with child protection proceedings. “This was the earliest all the agencies could attend a meeting and this meeting has to be held first in line with national child protection guidelines,” said Sussex Police in a statement.
The statement added: “A decision was made at that meeting to seize the girl’s phone as she was under the age of 16. Officers spoke to the girl and her mother about their concerns and consent was given by her mother to seize the phone. The phone was taken on Wednesday, September 19 and sent away for analysis to search for any evidence. This process takes time.
“On the evening of Thursday, September 20 Forrest and the girl left the country.
“At no point did the police investigation stop and the school were informed of the process of sending the phone away for analysis.”
The girl’s family and Forrest’s family both made direct appeals to the pair to contact them and return home and the case attracted huge publicity in the UK and abroad. Police focused efforts on raising awareness of the pair in France, releasing photos of them together, conducting press conferences in English and French, and issuing statements in both languages.
Following a sighting of them by a bar owner in Bordeaux, France, who recognised them from the media coverage of the case, a joint operation between the French Police, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and Sussex Police commenced immediately. As a result, the girl was found safe seven days after they went missing.
Forrest was arrested for child abduction and taken into custody, while the girl was supported by specially trained police officers and brought home.
He was extradited back to the UK and charged with child abduction on October 10.