A DRAMA teacher who molested two girls at an acting school he ran has walked free from court.
Joseph Kerr, a 51 year old actor who has appeared in hit shows, including Emmerdale and A Touch of Frost, struck when he was supposed to be teaching the teenage victims Shakespeare at the school, which he ran with his wife.
The Kerrs had rented school premises at weekends and provided private tuition as part of a franchise they had been operating since 2006, a jury had earlier been told.
The court had heard how Kerr had groped a 17-year-old at the school and was said to have told her – “I think what you need to is sleep with me”.
The girl had claimed to the jury the defendant changed a Shakespeare monologue about a jailer’s daughter in Two Noble Kinsmen.
She alleged he had persuaded her to bend over and had slapped her bottom.
The victim had told the court: “I was thinking: ‘You just don’t do this, especially not in a Shakespeare piece’.”
Kerr, of Burns Road, Fleetwood, was convicted of two charges of sexual activity with a child and two of sexual assault, after a two week trial at Preston Crown Court.
He was said to have no relevant previous convictions.
Kerr was given three months in jail, suspended for two years, with 12 months supervision at Burnley Crown Court.
He was placed on the sex offenders’ register for seven years and made the subject of a five year sexual offences prevention order, banning him from giving individual tuition to anybody under the age of 18.
During the trial, Preston Crown Court was told how the 17-year-old victim claimed Kerr had touched her indecently, said she looked gorgeous, was stunning and told her – “I just can’t resist you”.
The teenager told the jury after one lesson she cried herself to sleep and added: “I was just so uncomfortable with him, I didn’t know what to do.”
A second victim, who was 15 at the time, claimed the defendant groped her during an end-of-rehearsal hug, placing a hand between their bodies.
The jury had heard the girls made their complaints in 2009.
When Kerr was later charged, he said “Absolutely not guilty.
“All of this is a waste of time.”
He told police his contact with the girls had been professional, friendly, but completely innocent and denied anything sexual had gone on.
Kerr’s wife gave evidence at the trial, describing her husband as tactile and saying their marriage was “110 per cent strong”.
Richard Bloomfield, defending yesterday, said he had to accept the jury’s verdicts reflected a breach of trust.
The case had been hanging over the head of the defendant for more than two years and he had not been able to work, apart from some acting employment. He had faced financial loss.
Mr Bloomfield said the defendant’s behaviour was at the lowest end of the scale.
The barrister added: “It’s inevitable he will never be able to teach again.”