Jeremy Forrest – seeing the wood for the trees

Thoughts on the recent case of Jeremy Forrest

As Jeremy Forrest waits his extradition to The UK and Megan Stammers spends her first few hours being examined by officials from the police and social services, those that have followed the story, wait for the details to unravel and the fate of Mr Forrest to be unveiled.

We know that the pair have been close since February this year when they were seen holding hands on a school trip; that private maths lessons were provided; that Tweets have been exchanged; expressions of commitment tattooed; and a newly wedded couple parted. We also know that suspicion had been aroused at a school where only three years previously a teacher had been jailed for sexual activity with a child. On the eve of his suspension from the school, as the net was closing around him, it appears that Forrest and the girl decided to escape the inevitable investigation into their relationship and travel to France, the girl using the passports of her own mother and Mr Forrest’s wife, Emily.

The couple were seen on CCTV, travelling on a ferry to Calais, and there followed a hunt for the couple who were finally apprehended in Bordeaux. We know from reports and interviews with hoteliers that they booked into a double room.

Within hours of his detention in France, Forrest had instructed solicitors in the Uk , who advised him not to contest the extradition. He would have been arrested on an accusation warrant, which means that at this stage there are allegations against him for him to meet.

What charges can he face? It all very much depends upon the disclosure by the girl in the interview. If she is seeking to protect him, she may deny that any sexual activity occurred and that being the case, without any admission from him, there’s no evidence to prove the case against him. The fact that they held hands or shared a bedroom outside the jurisdiction is not enough to mount a prosecution against him. The fact that he is in a position of trust as a teacher, is only relevant in the event of there being sufficient evidence to prove that there was sexual activity between them.

If the girl discloses that full sexually activity occurred during the 7 months period between February and September, and this leads to a conviction , Forrest will face a custodial term with a starting point of 4 years imprisonment , 3 years taking into account credit for a guilty plea and then taking into account the aggravating factors of the 16 year age gap, coupled with the abuse of his position of trust , the sentence is likely to rise back to somewhere around 4 years, accounting for the consensual element of the relationship.

Child abduction is another offence for which he could be prosecuted, but again, only if the girl is able to demonstrate to police and prove at trial that she was not a willing traveller. The fact that she was in possession of her mother’s passport may indicate that she was a willing participant to the plan , albeit the impressionable younger half of the enterprise influenced by a much older partner .

Despite the outrage and intrigue that the circumstances have given rise to, it’s the small matter of the passports that are likely to lead to prosecution. If the girl’s mother does not seek to press charges against her daughter for stealing her passport, then Emily Forrest’s Ire is likely to give rise to such an allegation.

Even if neither Forrest’s wife nor the girl’s mother seek to press charges, the authorities will look to prosecute either the girl with fraudulent use of the identity document ( in order to leave the jurisdiction) , or the pair with conspiracy to fraudulently use the identify documents. It may be decided that there is no public interest in prosecuting the girl for this offence given her minority, however if this is the only opportunity to prosecute Jeremy Forrest, they will use it.
This offence would carry a sentence of between 12 -18 months, after which Forrest would be released after serving half of that period.

Although there may be public outrage at such a sentence, it must be remembered, that Forrest only attracted this amount of attention because he was her teacher travelled abroad with a girl. Had he been a server at the local take away who had entered a relationship with a 15 year old girl, the story would have gone unnoticed.

Forrest (and the girl), will never recover from the media attention, and if their story is to be believed the breakup of the bond between them. Forrest has, as a result of his actions thrown away his career , marriage and more than likely his liberty. The girl’s name will similarly be synonymous with the girl who ran way with Sir.

Interestingly, had the girl and Forrest, succeeded in evading detection and capture and remained out of the jurisdiction until she had reached her 16th or even 18th Birthday, it would have been interesting to see the view that the authorities would have taken then.

Jonathan Black

Sexual Offence Solicitors