Thursday 14 November 2019

'Naive' teacher waited until student's 16th birthday to have sex with him, court told


Dublin Circuit Criminal Court
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

A secondary school teacher who had sex with one of her students waited until his 16th birthday because she wrongly thought that was the age of consent, a court heard.

The substitute English teacher was 23 when she had sex with the boy in her car on a beach, after giving him a jumper, aftershave, a highlighter and pens as birthday presents.

Later, on the night before Valentine's Day, she booked a hotel room where they sat on a bed watching Netflix on her laptop before again having sex.

The woman, who is now 25, maintained she had waited until the boy was 16 because she thought that was legal.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that she was immature, had lived a sheltered life and was "naive sexually and as a teacher".

The accused pleaded guilty to two counts of defilement of a child under 17, on dates in early 2018. Judge Martin Nolan adjourned sentencing to this afternoon.

Garda Stephen Hughes said a relationship developed between the accused and the victim, who was in fifth year at a Dublin school.

The victim told gardaí he would chat with the teacher after class, then met her one night in a nightclub where she gave him a hug. They communicated by Snapchat and she began picking him up in her car after school.

After one meeting, he "leaned in for a kiss".

On his 16th birthday, they drove to a beach, he thanked her for the presents and they kissed before it "escalated" to sexual intercourse.

The day before Valentine's Day, they went to a Dublin hotel where she had booked a room.

After dinner, they watched programmes on her laptop, started to kiss then got into bed and again had sex.

The next day the boy told his parents he had stayed at a friend's house.

There was no further sexual activity and they continued to communicate before breaking off relations.

The victim's mother was notified that her son's school attendance was erratic. She was aware he was in a relationship but was reluctant to bring his girlfriend home.

She made enquiries, brought an Instagram picture to the school and the principal confirmed the accused's identity.

Her contract was terminated and the mother went to the gardaí, who arrested the accused at Dublin Airport October 2018 as she returned from abroad.

Asked about the relationship, the accused told gardaí "she was young-looking, he was in an over-18s nightclub, I wasn't concerned".

Defence barrister James Dwyer said the teacher and the boy waited until he was 16 in the erroneous belief that that was the age of sexual consent.

The Teaching Council had since taken steps to remove her as a teacher.

The accused had also suffered stress from publicity around the case.

In a victim impact statement, the boy said he had suffered "severe, life-changing anxiety and depression" that "follows me like a little black cloud".

The accused was now in a relationship with a 28-year-old man, Mr Dwyer said. She had "destroyed" her teaching career and now worked as an office administrator.

In a letter to the court, she said she was "truly sorry".

"I accept that I was wrong, I take full responsibility for my actions," she said.

A child sexual abuse specialist's report stated the accused had no sexual interest in children or adolescents and "doesn't fulfil the criteria for paedophilia".

She posed no more risk of re-offending than anyone else in society.

Mr Dwyer told the judge he could not find a similar case in Irish law.

Irish Independent

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