Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

‘18 months of hell’ for teacher cleared of pupil sex attack

A teacher has spoken of his 18 months of hell after a judge found him not guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage pupil.

The married man, who has been suspended from his post since the allegations were made to police in August 2011, yesterday walked free from Laganside Magistrates Court.

He had denied the allegations made by a female pupil he taught in the all-girls’ school in Belfast.

She had claimed that he had sexually assaulted her in a storeroom in the school in May 2011.

The teenager had told the court that she had been left “terrified” and how she had fled from the storeroom after the teacher |allegedly put his arm around her waist and made inappropriate comments to her.

But yesterday District Judge Paul Copeland said the Public Prosecution Service had failed to prove the case.

He said he had significant doubts, including that the pupil had turned up unannounced to get assistance with coursework from the teacher, and the teacher had not arranged a time or encouraged her to return alone to collect the print-out.

Judge Copeland also expressed concerns about the number of pupils and staff who were in the vicinity when the alleged incident occurred, with no less than two people having entered the storeroom while the pupil was in there with the teacher.

He also said that no one had seen her running from the room in distress and pointed out that the complainant had not reported the sexual assault to anyone |including her parents, sister or school until three months later, |following an overdose.

As Judge Copeland dismissed the case, the defendant and his wife both turned to each other and smiled. The former pupil was not in court.

Neither the pupil, the teacher nor the school can be identified |because of reporting restrictions. However, in a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, the defendant, a father-of-two, stated he had been the victim of malicious allegations.

He said: “This has been an extremely difficult time awaiting the outcome of these proceedings.

“My family and I are obviously relieved and happy at the judgment of the court which has reaffirmed there is absolutely no truth in the allegations against me.

“This case highlights the difficulty that dedicated members of the teaching profession face when spurious allegations are made against them.”

He added: “I’m looking forward to returning to teaching and |applying myself to teaching.”

The school where the teacher works said: “The school has fully co-operated with the PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service in this matter.

“The teacher will remain on precautionary suspension until internal processes are completed. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further as this is a confidential employee matter.”

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