A piece in today’s Telegraph:
A female teacher who had sex with a teenage pupil has been spared jail after a judge criticised the “inexcusable” three year delay in bringing the case to court.
Shannon Parsons, 33, admitted sleeping with the 16-year-old schoolboy at his family home while his parents were at work in 2018.
The pair had been exchanging “flirty and sexual” messages, as well as intimate photographs of each other, for several months.
But the mother of one, who was described as “well-respected and highly regarded” by her colleagues, waited until he turned 16 before having intercourse with him.
The incident came to light after the parents of another pupil at the state secondary school in Gravesham, Kent, raised the alarm when pupils began gossiping about the relationship.
Following her arrest, Parsons, from Welling, south east London, told police she did not love the boy and her interest in him had been “purely sexual’.
Appearing at Maidstone Crown Court, Parsons sobbed in the dock as the judge, Philip Statman, gave her a 12 month prison sentence suspended for two years.
The judge said he did not feel an immediate custodial sentence was necessary after taking into account her previous good character, genuine remorse and the impact of custody on her young daughter.
But the judge was also critical of delays in the proceedings, which meant it took over two years for Parsons to be charged, despite the fact she had given a full confession following her arrest in 2018.
It was revealed that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had been forced to repeatedly chase up Kent Police to complete the case file.
Judge Statman said the delay was “inexcusable and completely unacceptable”, adding that it had created “a very real difficulty” in deciding the appropriate punishment.
Judge Statman said: “You were the adult, he was the student, you were in your 30s, he was 16, and you had a responsibility pursuant to your profession to behave in an appropriate manner towards him.
“You failed to comply with that which was required of you. It was one thing to have an interest in the education of a student and help a student to do his very best.
“But you crossed the important boundary and you fractured the relationship between student and teacher.
“The abuse of that position of trust highlights just how serious this type of criminality is.”
The court heard that Parsons had been working at the school for three years when the incident occurred in 2018.
The boy told police they had initially begun messaging one another about school matters but the conversations had soon turned into flirting.
They later exchanged sexual photographs of one another and had arranged to meet for sex.
The court heard the intercourse – which was a one off – took place one afternoon at his home while his parents were at work.
Prosecutor Vivian Walters said: “They had started kissing and then had sex. He was 16. He said that after they had had sex he felt awkward. He didn’t talk to her and ignored her on Instagram.
“She tried to talk to him on exam results day….but he said he couldn’t be bothered. He also said he told a couple of mates (what had happened) which was how it got spread around.
“He said it affected him quite badly because ‘everyone was talking about it’.”
Parsons was arrested, immediately confessed, and resigned from her job.
She told police the boy was 15 when they first began communicating on her phone and via social media.
Ms Walters said: “She said she knew that wasn’t allowed. At some stage he said he was attracted to her. She said she knew she should have ended it and she knew it was wrong.”
The prosecutor went on: “She said she wasn’t in love with him, it was purely sexual and she never thought of him as a child.
“She agreed it was not okay to do what she did but felt he wanted it to happen.”
Although interviewed by police, the court was told the boy did not want to provide a victim personal statement.
His father said while his son had experienced some bullying, his general behaviour had not been “negatively affected”.
Simon Connolly, defending, said Parsons had admitted her guilt “unreservedly” and made no attempt to either avoid responsibility or blame others.
She was also said to be suffering from mental health issues at the time and has since been diagnosed with what is known as a stress-related adjustment disorder.
“It was a single incident, there was no attempt to repeat it and was followed immediately by regret,” Mr Connolly told the court.
As part of her sentence, Parsons must undertake 40 days of a rehabilitation activity requirement. She was also made subject to a sexual harm prevention order for five years and must sign on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.
She will also be barred from working with children and vulnerable adults.
The court heard that although she still lives with her daughter’s father, their relationship was coming to an end at the time of the offence.
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