Ballet teacher sentenced for abducting boy

A ballet teacher who flouted a police order not to continue her inappropriate relationship with a talented and vulnerable 15-year-old boy dancer was handed a suspended jail term today.

Sarah Pirie, 27, committed a "serious breach of trust" when they met and she gave him a lift in her car a week after she was banned from having any contact with him.

The defendant was also accused of having sex with the boy but prosecutors decided in November to offer no evidence on those allegations.

Her victim, Reece Washington, who waived his anonymity, claimed in a newspaper article that they had sex on the backseat of her car.

Sentencing her at Preston Crown Court, Judge Michael Byrne accepted there was no sexual activity between the pair - who met at Clifton Dance Academy in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire - but told her she "went past the boundaries of your employment".

Colleagues repeatedly warned her to stop going beyond the teacher-pupil relationship by getting involved in his personal life.

Pirie, who now lives in Luxembourg, was jailed for 35 weeks, suspended for two years, after she admitted a charge of child abduction.

The court heard she is suspended from working with children and her conviction will effectively make the ban permanent.

Pirie had originally pleaded not guilty to the charge of abducting Reece on May 22, 2009 and five counts of sexual activity with him between March and June last year.

But on the day of the scheduled trial on November 29 after discussions between prosecution and defence barristers, only the single charge of child abduction was put to the defendant to which she pleaded guilty.

Before the trial could begin the court heard the prosecution's case depended on the "quality and credibility" of the youngster's evidence and it would be "inappropriate to maintain the allegations in respect of the other counts".

The court was told today that the complainant now accepted no sexual activity took place and verdicts of not guilty on those counts were ordered to be returned.

Sarah Johnston, prosecuting, said Reece was 15 at the time of the offence and was living with foster parents.

She said: "In March 2009 the defendant was spoken to about the level of contact she was having with Reece by at least one of her colleagues and that it was irregular bearing in mind the teacher-pupil relationship.

"The defendant regularly escorted the complainant to and from rehearsals and auditions.

"She was spoken to by her employers and suspended in April 2009, She was warned not to have any with further contact with him while an investigation began into the relationship.

"The police became aware of the concerns a month later and on May 13 she was served with a formal notice order under the Children's Act which prohibited her from further contact with him."

Pirie was told to contact the relevant authorities if the youngster initiated contact.

On May 22, Reece asked her to give him a lift in her car to Manchester to pick up his cousin and then return back to his home, Miss Johnston said.

She agreed and the face-to-face contact on that occasion lasted up to 90 minutes.

Police interviewed the youngster the following month about the meeting and Pirie was later arrested and questioned.

"She asserted that the complainant was manipulative and threatening and that was the only reason that she made further contact with him," the prosecutor said.

Sarah Booth, defending, said Reece was a pupil who had talent above and beyond that of others at the school, who Pirie wanted to help.

When they developed a friendship she took pity on him when he said he wanted to see his cousin and grandparents, she added.

"He presented himself as someone who was missing his family and was adrift from his foster carers. He quickly saw her as a means of transport," she said.

"Things turned and he began to manipulate her and said if she did not see him he would make allegations to the police. On one occasion he said he would kill himself.

"Hindsight being a wonderful thing, she knows that the contact was something she should not have done.

"I suggest it was a technical abduction.

"There has never been any sexual contact - a far cry from the Mrs Robinson-style relationship outlined in the Press."

She explained that Reece waived his anonymity given to alleged sex victims and told his story which was outlined in an article with the headline 'The Seduction of Billy Elliot.

"It appears he has a dream of appearing in the West End. One cannot say if he has the talent of Jamie Bell, who played Billy Elliot, but this is not the forum to launch his career," Miss Booth said.

"Rather than being the traumatised victim as described, he was courting the press.

"He attended court this morning but was advised it was not appropriate to be present."

"This is not Britain's Got Talent, this is a court of law,"

He had told the newspaper about his "furiousness" that he was not allowed to give evidence to the court, when in fact as the judge knew, he had declined to do so, she added.

"This young woman is attempting to claw back her life after being put through the press attention and the accusations made against her which the Crown and the complainant now accepts never took place," she said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas