Teacher faces jail over affair with pupil

Caroline French arriving at Preston Crown Court
Caroline French arriving at Preston Crown Court
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EDUCATION bosses today slammed paedophile drama teacher Caroline French for “abusing her position of trust” by having a lesbian affair with a pupil.

French faces jail after she was found guilty of seducing the teenager while teaching at a Blackpool high school.

She plied the girl with booze and preyed on the youngster’s confusion about her own sexuality.

French, formerly of St David’s Road North, St Annes, wept in the dock at Preston Crown Court as Judge Stuart Baker said “a prison sentence would be considered as appropriate”.

Education chiefs today sent out a message to young victims they did not have to suffer in silence.

A special telephone hotline has been set up for children affected by the case.

David Lund, executive director for children, adult and family services for Blackpool Council, said: “It is clear Caroline French abused her position of trust.

“We are not aware of any other young people being victims of Caroline French, but if anyone has any concerns and they wish to speak to someone in confidence this can be arranged.”

French denied three counts of indecent assault and one count of indecency with a child.

But during a six-day trial, the court heard French had given the teenager alcohol while grooming her for sex.

The girl had begun to have problems in her home life and was confused.

French preyed on this, the court was told.

The relationship started in 2004, but it was not until 2009 when 10-month affair came to light.

Witnesses from the school admitted having concerns over French’s relationship with the girl after seeing them holding hands and leaving school together.

One member of staff said he had also seen the girl – who is now 22 – at French’s house.

Andrew Nuttall, defending, had accused the teenager of inventing the “fantasy” about a relationship with French, who denied she was gay.

After the jury returned a guilty verdict, he said: “This is a lady of previous good character. Her career is ruined and her life is in tatters.”

The court was told after the relationship ended French went on to live with another teenage girl from a different school in Blackpool.

The girl moved into French’s former home in St Annes when she was 16 and a sixth-form student. She lived with French for three years.

Giving evidence, the teacher claimed the second girl was her lodger.

French, who has now left her job in Blackpool, was yesterday released on bail until sentencing on May 13.

Judge Stuart Baker warned her: “For offending of this type, in committing a breach of trust as a teacher, a prison sentence is considered as appropriate. But I don’t want to take a decision without all the information I can have.”

He then asked for a victim impact statement to be arranged.

Mr Lund praised the “bravery of the victim” and said “thankfully cases of this nature are extremely rare “

But he added the case would be reviewed to see if any lessons could be learned.

Mr Lund said: “The events which led to this verdict happened many years ago, in the intervening years and as a result of national guidance there have been a number of changes to safeguarding procedures for schools and other settings, which have already been implemented.

“This would make it far more difficult for any member of staff to prey on young people in this way.”

The council’s special confidential telephone line is (01253) 476501.