“HE is a maths teacher whose story fails to add up” the prosecutor told the jury in the case of a man charged with eloping to France with his 15 year old student.
Jeremy Forrest,30, formerly of Broyleside Cottages, Ringmer, denies one count of child abduction. He taught maths at Bishop Bell C o E School, Eastbourne, where he met the girl who was one of his pupils.
Richard Barton, prosecuting, told the jury in his closing speech today (Wednesday, June 18) that Forrest had no lawful authority to take the girl away from her mother.
Mr Barton said that “no reasonable excuse” had been put forward for Forrest not to be found guilty of child abduction.
He said: “She is a young woman in a very difficult position and by golly has she had a lot of growing up to do in the last few months. You saw her give evidence and you may well conclude that here is a young girl who feels terribly guilty about what’s happened – who has had to deal with all those around her feeling that she has let them down – her family, friends, her school.
“Here is a young girl who thinks completely erroneously thinks that she has let down the man she loves – and you may well think she is a young girl who is desperate to help him in any way she possibly can.”
The prosecutor went on to point out that the jury had heard no evidence from the defendant, adding: “You know this defendant chose not to give evidence and not to file and serve a defence case statement setting out what his defence was.”
He said what the court did know was that at the start of the last calendar year, the girl was 14 and vulnerable.
He added: “This 14 year old feels neglected and is confused and mixed up. Those were manifestations for her desire for attention – she was desperate for somebody to take notice of her.”
He then went on to say that as many young girls do, she developed a crush on a teacher, in this case Forrest.
Mr Barton added: “He listens and gives her time, talks about her problems, fully aware of all her vulnerabilities. He gains her confidence and she feels she can trust him.”
Mr Barton said there was no doubt at that time he was behaving appropriately.
He said: “The question is how on earth did he go ahead and break that trust in so many hideous ways – how is it and why is it that he betrayed that trust?”
Mr Barton reminded the jury about the photos Forrest had sent the girl of his torso including one of him lying on a sofa with his hands down his boxer shorts.
He added: “How appropriate is that?”
Appearing to address the defendant, Mr Barton said: “How did you feel Mr Forrest that first time when she was a 14-year-old girl in her school uniform in your classroom where you taught her and her fellow pupils and you kissed her for the first time? How was that in accordance with the trust you had built up?”
The court heard how Forrest had spent hundreds of pounds on hotels for the pair to stay in hotels including Premier Inns in Polegate and Hastings as well as The White Hart in Lewes.
The hotel stays were between July 26, 2012 and September 7, 2012 and occurred on five separate occasions.
Mr Barton said: “You may feel that he is flattered by the attention of young, impressionable girls. The woman he chose to marry is a very young-looking, petite woman with her own vulnerabilities and her own problems.
“What is it Mr Forrest finds attractive about very young-looking, vulnerable women? Grooming, being caring, being kind, being close, gaining confidence, gaining the trust of that person so you can then do what you want with them.”
He reminded the jury about the evidence of one of the girl’s closest friends who said to the other member of their friendship group: “This is paedophilia, he is a paedophile.”
Mr Barton said: “It is about Forrest’s desires to have young flesh sexually to satisfy his own carnal lusts.”
He said he betrayed the girl during a call to her mother when he said she was pestering him and jeopardising his career.
He said he had betrayed his wife, his colleagues and the girl’s mum, but added: “The worst betrayal of all is his betrayal of (the girl) because she trusted him because she trusted him with all her vulnerabilities.
“In the phone-call to her mum, that was a desperate betrayal of her, that was him saying when the pressure hits and there’s rumours ‘it’s nothing to do with me, it’s her fault’ – he is a self-centred man concerned for himself and his own needs and desires. You may feel in fact that he is also a coward.
“What is your defence? ‘Please sir I don’t have any defence because the dog ate it?’ well that was not going to cut the mustard. He has no real defence at all. You may feel that at the end of the evidence that this is a musician who unwittingly has been unable to face the music or you may well find he is a maths teacher whose story does simply not add up and I ask you to find him guilty as charged.”