Schoolteacher awaits sentence after being found guilty of child abduction

Bishop Bell schoolteacher Jeremy Forrest was tonight (Thursday) awaiting sentence after being found guilty of abducting a pupil.

The 30-year-old married man had denied abducting the 15-year-old and taking her to France but was found guilty after the jury at Lewes Crown Court returned its verdict this afternoon, following around two hours of deliberation.

Jeremy Forrest who was today sentenced to five-and-a-half years in jail

Jeremy Forrest who was today sentenced to five-and-a-half years in jail

His schoolgirl lover, now 16, sobbed in court when the jury at Lewes Crown Court delivered its verdict.

The teenage girl, who previously told the court she was ‘in love’ with Forrest and went to France with him willingly back in September last year, was visibly upset at the verdict and cried in the packed court room.

The jury of eight men and four women had earlier been told by judge Michael Lawson not to let sympathy and emotion get in the way of their verdict.

He said the case would have raised areas of discussion on the age of consent and ‘adolescent children experimenting’. He told the jurors, “They are not for this court, adding, “If that was allowed we would never reach a verdict. If you wanted to decide the case on sympathy for individuals in the case you would have different views. You will decide the case according to the law as it is and not as others or yourselves might want it to be.”

He went on to tell the jury they were to return their verdict on the one child abduction charge and reminded them the girl’s consent was ‘irrelevant’. He went on to explain that taking a child due to necessity was a defence in law and said it could be applied in ‘extreme circumstances’ and if the child was in danger of death or serious injury.

Portia Ragnauth, deputy chief crown prosecutor, was joined by police officers when she spoke on the steps of the court to the numerous journalists and camera crews that have descended on Lewes for the case over the last two weeks.

Ms Ragnauth said, “This case was one where a teacher was in a position of authority over a 15-year-old pupil and abducted her, taking her to another country. Not only did he breach the trust and confidence that all the parents at the school had placed in him, he also brought disgrace to his profession, who are trusted to look after the children in their care.

“Forrest lied systematically about his relationship with the girl, repeatedly seeking to assure others, who were concerned about the welfare of his victim that nothing untoward was going on between them.”

Ms Ragnauth added, “The law clearly states that it is an offence to remove a child from the care of their parents or lawful guardian without the adult’s consent. Add to that the torment and anguish that the victim’s family went through while they were gone.

“None of us can begin to imagine how worried they were about her safety and wellbeing while she was gone for over a week, not knowing where she was or whether she was safe.

“It is a parents’s worst nightmare to have their child abducted and not know whether they will ever see them again.”

Forrest will be sentenced at midday on Friday. A victim impact statement, by the girl’s mother, is also expected to be read at the sentencing.