Drama teacher jailed for lesbian affair with pupil
A drama teacher who took advantage of a vulnerable pupil and had a lesbian affair with her has been jailed for three years.
Caroline French, 38, stepped in to save the girl from bullies at the school where she was head of the drama department but committed a ”gross breach of trust” when she encouraged an intimate relationship between the pair.
Sentencing her, Judge Stuart Baker said French was ”well respected” by colleagues and pupils at her former school in Blackpool, Lancashire, and had excellent career prospects in education but on the other hand was ”manipulative” and ”vindictive”.
French, of Darlington, had denied indecently assaulting the teenager and told her trial in March she was not gay despite contrary evidence from pupils and staff at the school.
A jury at Preston Crown Court did not believe her version of events and convicted her of three counts of sexual assault and one count of indecency with a child.
The offences took place between January and April 2004 when her victim was aged 15.
French exchanged rings with the girl and even asked her to refer to her at school as ”Danny”, a pretend boyfriend, to mask their affair.
The relationship ended and months later French became intimate with another girl whom she taught at a different school in the resort, the jury was told.
She moved into French’s former home in St Annes in September 2004 when she was 16 and a sixth-form student. They then allegedly began a sexual relationship which lasted three years as the teenager changed her surname by deed poll to French.
Giving evidence, French, of Ashtree Close, said they were not lovers and the girl was merely her lodger.
A police investigation into that relationship led to the uncovering of the earlier affair with the schoolgirl, although she chose not to complain about the matter.
French intervened to help the girl when she was 13.
Judge Baker told the defendant: “She was a vulnerable girl struggling to understand her own sexuality and having a number of problems to cope with. She had a broken family. Her mother suffered from alcohol abuse and she also suffered from bullying at school.
“You were the head of the drama department, you were her drama teacher. She looked to you for support and, while it is right to recognise that you did put an end to the bullying, you went on to take advantage of the closeness of the relationship and you encouraged her into an intimate relationship which was completely inappropriate.
“It involved a gross breach of trust.”
With her parents in the public gallery, Judge Baker added that French was “very intelligent, well-educated and came from a good family background”.
“You have had an excellent career up until the offences came to light,” he said.
“You have been well-respected as a teacher both by your professional colleagues, by senior staff and by pupils who you taught.
“Everyone who gave evidence in the trial spoke well of you.
“By your conduct of seven years ago you have lost your good character. You have lost your chosen career and, sadly for you, you have lost the prospects that that career may have led to.”
He continued: “In my view, you have shown yourself to be not only a good teacher and well-respected on one hand, but on the other hand a manipulative, selfish and, when it suits you, a vindictive woman.
“You chose to plead not guilty and that is your right but, by accusing almost all the Crown’s witnesses of lying, you have shown you have no remorse for what you have done.
“Your career now lies in ruin and your life is ruined as well. You will have a long and difficult struggle to rehabilitate yourself in paid employment.”
French was originally charged with committing the offences between September 2002 and April 2004 but the dates were amended as the trial progressed.