Boy convicted of sex assault on pupil allowed back to school

By Robby West and Mariam Issimdar
BBC East

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, Police statistics show a rise in reports of sexual assaults in schools in recent years

A 15-year-old boy convicted of sexually assaulting a girl in a classroom has been allowed to stay at the same school as his victim.

The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was found guilty of two counts of sexual assault and put on the sex offenders register.

The victim said: "I have to just keep my head down, pretend he's not there, otherwise it makes me panic."

The school said it had followed all procedures correctly.

The boy, who remained at school while awaiting prosecution, was tried at a youth court almost a year after the assault and given a restraining order, and told not to contact or approach his victim.

'I was stuck'

The victim told BBC Inside Out East: "It was known that boy was very 'hands on' with girls.

"He started making comments about me, touching my legs and putting his hands on me.

"Then gradually he started putting his hands up my skirt, touching my chest and I kept telling him to stop.

"I wanted to leave but I felt like I couldn't do anything. I felt powerless, like I was stuck."

The victim's family, from Essex, believes he should not have been allowed to stay at the school.

"I think the day he was found guilty he should have been excluded," her mother said.

"He should not be allowed near my daughter or any woman right now. I worry every single day, even now. I don't feel the boy was adequately punished at all."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, The NSPCC said calls to Childline about sex abuse by other children had increased

Figures obtained by the BBC show at least 6,289 sexual assaults took place in and around schools between 2015 and 2017 - and there was a 60% rise across those three years.

The data, which may include assaults on staff as well as pupils, was supplied by 26 of 45 police forces from England and Wales in a Freedom of Information request. Police Scotland did not give figures.

Some forces said certain offences took place outside school, or on the bus on the way to school.

Department for Education guidelines set out how schools should deal with a report of sexual assault and what to do after a pupil is convicted, with responses on a "case by case basis".

Anna Cole, inclusion specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said she suspected the rise was down to better reporting by individuals and schools.

"Schools know they can't take this lightly. It can't just be dismissed as 'banter' or a normal thing that happens anymore," she said.

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Children's charity the NSPCC said the number of its Childline counselling sessions for victims of sexual abuse carried out by other children increased by a third between 2016-17 and 2017-18.

Almudena Lara, head of policy, said: "We are alarmed at the number of sexual assaults that are taking place inside school gates, where parents rightly expect that their children are kept safe.

"Children must be supported to recognise what constitutes abuse and harassment, teachers must ensure that victims understand they are not to blame."

Sexual offences in schools

  • Out of the forces that responded to the BBC, Greater Manchester Police reported the highest number of recorded offences: 475 in three years to 2017
  • In 2015, North Wales Police recorded 24 cases but that rose to 110 in 2017
  • In Hertfordshire, numbers more than doubled from 38 recorded cases in 2015 to 89 in 2017
  • Essex Police saw reported cases go up from 73 to 130 between 2015 and 2017
  • Three forces - Dyfed-Powys, Suffolk and Cumbria - saw numbers go down between 2015 and 2017

The victim told the BBC the guilty verdict helped her to deal with the ordeal.

"It took a massive weight off my shoulders to be listened to," she said.

"For most part I felt I was going mad. [I was] told in court I was a liar, but to be believed was a relief."

But she said it had been incredibly hard to stay at school, knowing her convicted attacker had been allowed to continue there too.

"I thought I wasn't going to see him. They said I'm their main priority. "

You can see more on this story on Inside Out on BBC One in the East of England at 19:30 GMT on Wednesday 20 February, and afterwards on the iPlayer.

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