Sex sentence 'cannot be referred'
The Attorney General is unable to review the suspended sentence of a religious studies teacher convicted of having sex with a student because his crimes are not included in the "unduly lenient" sentence scheme.
Stuart Kerner, 44, was handed a suspended 18-month sentence by Judge Joanna Greenberg QC, sitting at Inner London Crown Court, who said it was clear his 16-year-old victim was ''obsessed'' with him.
The Attorney General's Office (AGO) said yesterday that it would consider whether to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal after receiving a number of complaints.
But today an AGO spokeswoman said: " After a number of complaints, we carefully considered whether Stuart Kerner's sentence could be referred to the Court of Appeal for being too low - as part of the 'unduly lenient sentence scheme'.
"Mr Kerner's crimes are not included in this scheme, meaning the law officers are unable to refer this.
"However, it's important that the public can challenge what they believe to be exceptionally low sentences. We have been looking at whether the scope of the current scheme is right."
Kerner, of Aylesford in Kent, was found guilty last month of two counts of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust.
But he walked free from court yesterday after the judge told Kerner: "(The victim) pursued you.
"Her friends described her, accurately in my view, as stalking you ...
"If grooming is the right word to use, it was she who groomed you, (and) you gave in to temptation."
However, the judge added that the victim was also young and vulnerable and Kerner was in a position of trust:
''The law demands that you are the responsible adult and that you show restraint, and we know that you failed to do so," she said.
Before today's announcement, the AGO said it had received more than 20 complaints about the 18-month suspended sentence and a decision on whether it would be referred to the Court of Appeal was due by February 11.
Meanwhile, a separate inquiry could lead to censure or even removal from office of Judge Greenberg.
A spokesman for the Judicial Conduct and Investigations Office (JCIO) said it had received multiple complaints about the judge's conduct, which "would be considered under the regulations".
The JCIO considers allegations of misconduct, which may be dismissed or referred for further investigation.
If a complaint is ultimately upheld, it can result in a judge being disciplined, suspended or removed from office entirely. It is understood the JCIO process may take several months.
Judge Greenberg's comments have attracted criticism from several children's charities.
Barnardo's executive director of children's services Sam Monaghan said: "This is the wrong use of the word grooming, it's the wrong message to teachers, parents and pupils, and it's wrong to suggest that a vulnerable child is in any way responsible for their own abuse."
Alan Wardle, the NSPCC's head of policy and public affairs, said: "There should be no ambiguity in people's minds about who was the victim here.
"This was a 44-year-old teacher in a position of trust and with a duty of care, who exploited a vulnerable child. Children who are victims of sexual abuse are never complicit in the crimes against them and offenders are solely to blame.
"For the judge to suggest that the fault lies in some way with the child in this case is totally unacceptable."
During his trial, jurors heard that Kerner took advantage of the ''besotted'' schoolgirl.
They also heard he once told the teenager their relationship was ''written in the stars'' and he carried a condom in his jacket pocket, telling her: "This is in case you become too irresistible."
In a video interview with police, played to jurors, the schoolgirl said: ''It felt special. But, I dunno, it wasn't really. And admitting that does kind of hurt.''
She also told police she could say "hand on my heart" that Kerner would never have made a move on her without her encouragement.
The AGO said it was now looking at the scope of the "unduly lenient sentence" scheme.