Judge who said schoolgirl ‘groomed’ teacher ‘shows UK’s victim blaming culture’
Britain has a ‘victim blaming culture’ and a judge’s claims that a schoolgirl ‘groomed’ her teacher into having sex only makes it worse, says a leading child sex abuse charity chief.
Former religious studies teacher Stuart Kerner, 44, received an 18-month suspended prison sentence for having an affair with an under-age pupil but dodged jail as the judge said he had been ‘manipulated’ by the victim.
While sentencing Kerner, Judge Joanna Greenberg QC described the circumstances of the crime as a ‘tragedy’ and said there was no evidence the teacher had sought the affair.
Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), believes the Kerner case is ‘yet another example of blaming the victim for a crime.’
Mr Saunders, also an ex-North West teacher, told MM: “This is another case of blaming the victim for the crime. We’re talking about a 16-year-old child – and no matter what they look like they are children – and a 44-year-old experienced qualified deputy head teacher.
“There is no way in the world that person should violate the sacred boundary between teacher and pupil, and he did that. And no matter what led up to it there are no excuses. If he felt, as was clearly stated in court, and the Judge – to her huge shame – indicated that somehow he was groomed by her then they really need to examine their consciousness.
“The judge blamed the victim and this emphasises that we live in a victim blaming culture still, which is very, very unhelpful. If a young student pupil has any kind of inappropriate contact or inclination towards you then you simply don’t go there and report it.”
The court heard how Kerner took the girl’s virginity on a yoga mat on the floor of a school storeroom.
His wife had miscarried their second child that same week.
He also took the girl, alleged to have ‘pursued him,’ to his home and had sex with her in the guest bedroom – while his wife was out at work.
The affair is said to have happened between March 2011 and October 2012. In January 2013, the parents of the girl found sexually explicit material on her phone and called the police.
Judge Greenberg mitigated Kerner’s responsibility as a teacher because he was ‘emotionally fragile’ following his wife’s miscarriage.
Teaching unions and child abuse charities have criticised the judge’s comments, citing them as irresponsible.
The Attorney General’s Office are now considering whether to refer the case to the Court of Appeal under the unduly lenient sentences scheme.
Alan Wardle, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the NSPCC, said: “There should be no ambiguity in people’s minds about who the victim was here. This was a 44-year-old teacher in a position of trust and with a duty of care, who exploited a vulnerable child.
“Crushes on teachers by pupils are not unusual or new but it’s the teacher’s responsibility to ensure they don’t progress. But instead of stopping it, Kerner cynically took advantage of the situation.
“The law rightly protects pupils from exploitation in these circumstances regardless of whether they are over the legal age of consent or not, and when teachers breach their position of trust in such a horrendous manner as Kerner did then the consequences must be severe. Parents would expect no less.
“We support a review of the sentence given to Kerner and we will be making a formal complaint about the comments made by the judge.”