Teacher ‘groomed pupil for sex’

Caroline French peers from behind a scarf as she leaves Preston Crown Court
Caroline French peers from behind a scarf as she leaves Preston Crown Court
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A PUPIL has told a court how a Blackpool teacher plied her with booze while grooming her for sex when she was just 14.

Preston Crown Court heard how the teenager turned to Caroline French as she began to have problems in her home life and became confused over her sexuality.

A jury heard how lifts home from school quickly progressed into a “full on kiss” and a sexual relationship between the pair.

But the 38-year-old, who was a drama teacher at a Blackpool high school at the time, denies the allegations, claiming she is not gay and her former pupil is lying.

Speaking to the court via video-link, the now former pupil – who is now 22 – described the moment the couple had first been intimate with one another after a booze-fuelled night together.

She said: “She (French) said that was amazing. The next day I woke up with a huge hangover.”

The witness described how the pair had exchanged all night internet messages before the relationship became sexual.

By that stage she had already stayed at Miss French’s former home in St David’s Road North, St Annes, following a fight with her mother.

But she told jurors she initially felt she could not say no after Miss French suggested they give a relationship a go.

She added: “I felt trapped, I can’t get out of this.

“I got into this relationship and I started staying over at her house a bit more – there was always alcohol.

“We slept together quite a few times, more than I can remember.

“It went on for quite sometime before I left school.”

Richard Howarth, opening the trial for the prosecution, said French began a relationship with the girl when she stepped in to stop her from being bullied.

He said the victim was “vulnerable” as her mother had a drinking problem and she was starting to question her own sexuality.

The court heard the alleged offences took place between September 2002 and April 2004.

Mr Howarth said: “Over that period of time there was a process by which the defendant groomed the complainant.”

The jury heard it started with French giving the girl her telephone number following the bullying.

They began communicating on internet site MSN Messenger, the court heard.

French then started giving the alleged victim lifts home from school.

It developed further with the girl staying at the defendant’s house when she was having problems at home.

Mr Howarth said: “The Crown say the defendant plied, or certainly gave, the complainant with alcohol, usually in the form of Budweiser lager and also from time to time bought her cigarettes.”

It was at this time – when the complainant was aged 14 – they had a “French-type” kiss at the defendant’s home, the prosecutor added.

On a later occasion at the house, the pair moved on to have “intimate sexual contact”. The relationship ended when the complainant was 17, the jury was told.

French, who now lives in Darlington, denies three acts of indecent assault and one count of indecency with a child.

(Proceeding)