UK

Teacher Stuart Kerner's pupil sex sentence 'cannot be reviewed'

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Media captionStuart Kerner had sex with the girl the same week his wife had a miscarriage

The Attorney General's Office says a suspended sentence handed to a teacher, who had sex with a pupil, cannot be reviewed for being too lenient.

Stuart Kerner, 44, from Kent, received an 18-month suspended sentence for two counts of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust.

The Attorney General's Office said his crimes could not be reviewed under the unduly lenient sentence scheme.

The teacher had an affair with the girl, then 16, at Bexleyheath Academy.

The Attorney General's Office had previously said it would consider whether to refer the case to the Court of Appeal under the unduly lenient sentences scheme.

However, a spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office 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."

Inner London Crown Court heard Kerner, a religious studies teacher, took the girl's virginity on a yoga mat on the floor of a school storeroom, in the same week his wife miscarried their second child.

He later drove her to his home where the pair had sex, kissed and cuddled.

'Gave in to temptation'

During the trial, jurors were told what started out as a schoolgirl crush turned into an 18-month affair, which was discovered in 2013.

Kerner, of Aylesford, Kent, was found guilty by a jury last month of two counts of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust but was cleared of four counts of the same offence and two counts of sexual activity with a child that related to alleged behaviour when the victim was only 15.

In sentencing, Judge Joanna Greenberg QC said the victim had become "obsessed" with him.

She told Kerner: "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."

Judge Greenberg said he was "emotionally fragile" because of complications with his wife's pregnancy.

Although this did not excuse his behaviour, she said it did help explain why someone with an "exemplary" character would commit such offences.

Dame Joan McVittie, a secondary school head teacher, said the teacher should have taken steps to mitigate the risk.

"There are very clear guidelines in schools, that the teacher concerned must alert the senior management to the situation.

"In a situation like this, I would expect it to be reported to the head teacher, so that the head teacher can put in place barriers, steps, move the child to different classes, etc."

'Abusive relationship'

But critics have criticised the sentence, which is suspended for 18 months.

Kerner was placed on the sex offenders' register indefinitely and barred from working with children, also indefinitely.

Marilyn Hawes, a former teacher and founder of the charity Enough Abuse UK, which provides support for abuse victims, said the judge had been unduly lenient in her sentencing.

"She was still a pupil and she had a right, as did the parents or her carer, to expect she would be secure and safe in those hours in school with someone who had been given that trust, and it was a total breach of trust.

"I just do not understand where the judge was coming from when she says she stalked him. He abused his position."

And Jon Brown, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children lead for tackling sexual abuse, said Kerner had committed a gross breach of trust.

"This was an abusive relationship and young people involved in situations like this can be damaged in many ways.

"Teachers have a duty of care to their pupils and Kerner should have taken steps to distance himself from the girl rather than encouraging her behaviour."

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