A DRAMA teacher has been found guilty of molesting teenage girls when he should have been teaching Shakespeare.
Fylde coast thespian Joseph Kerr – who has appeared in TV soaps and dramas from Emmerdale to A Touch of Frost – groped and touched one girl and is even said to have told her: “I think what you need is to sleep with me.”
The 50-year-old married teacher has been placed on the Sex Offenders Register after he was convicted of two charges of sexual activity with a child and two of sexual assault.
Preston Crown Court heard the case concerned two girls aged 17 and 15-years-old at the time.
The allegations concerning the younger girl related to Kerr’s work with an acting school based in the Blackpool area.
It was the second time Kerr, of Burns Road, Fleetwood, had been on trial for such allegations – having been cleared in court of similar charges six years ago.
Kerr and his wife ran the acting school which was part of a franchise they had been operating since 2006, renting school premises at the weekends and providing private tuition.
One girl, who had been 17 at the time of the offence, spoke of Kerr changing a Shakespeare monologue about a jailer’s daughter in Two Noble Kinsmen.
He persuaded her to bend over and slap her bottom.
“I was thinking ‘you just don’t do this, especially not in a Shakespeare piece’,” she told the court.
She then claimed Kerr touched her bottom and touched her indecently. She claimed he also said: “I think what you need is to sleep with me.”
She suggested he made an improper statement about her body as well as: “You look gorgeous, you smell gorgeous – you’re absolutely stunning.”
Kerr also allegedly grabbed himself and said: “I just can’t resist you.”
The young girl said after one lesson she cried herself to sleep all night. She said: “I was just so uncomfortable with him, I didn’t know what to do.”
The second girl alleged Kerr had groped her on a number of occasions. This was said to have happened during a hug at the end of a rehearsal, with him placing one hand between their bodies.
When charged last year, Kerr told police “absolutely not guilty – all of this is a waste of time”.
He denied any sexual impropriety towards either of the females, saying his contact with them was professional, friendly, but entirely innocent.
Kerr denied five charges of sexual assault and two others of sexual activity with a child.
But he was convicted of two charges of sexual activity with a child and two of sexual assault.
He was found not guilty of the remaining three charges.
The court heard, in 2006, Kerr had been cleared at Teeside Crown Court of alleged sexual activity with a child.
An issue in the case was whether the girls had been influenced in any way by coverage in the national press of that case.
In his evidence to the court, Kerr said the earlier trial had been a “horrible experience.”
He had only returned to teaching after some consideration and discussion, the court was told.
When asked if he had ever made sexually suggestive comments, smacked a bottom or touched breasts, he replied “absolutely not.”
His wife, who he married in 2008, gave evidence to say the teaching had been done in a “happy informal atmosphere” and had never seen or heard anything inappropriate.
She described her husband as a tactile person and their marriage as “110 per cent strong”.
After the jury’s verdicts were returned, Judge Jonathan Gibson adjourned the case for a pre-sentence report.
Kerr was bailed to February 27, to be dealt with at Burnley Crown Court.
He will be placed on the Sex Offenders Register.
The judge told him: “It is likely the sentence will not be an immediate custodial sentence.
“It will probably either be a community order or a suspended sentence, most probably the latter.”