Ex-teacher Brian Knowles avoids prison over abduction of 15-year-old girl
Monday 29 October 2012
A former deputy headteacher has been spared jail after admitting abducting a 15-year-old pupil and taking her out for meals.
Married Brian Knowles, 58, pleaded guilty to four charges of child abduction after he sent the teenager inappropriate text messages, took her shopping and ate with her at McDonald's fast food restaurants.
Warwick Crown Court, sitting at Leamington Spa, heard that Knowles was deputy head at Barr's Hill School in Radford, Coventry, when he was given the role of mentoring the girl in her diploma studies, which resulted in them growing close to one another.
Sentencing him to nine months in prison, suspended for two years, Judge Marten Coates told Knowles he was satisfied he did not pose an adequate enough threat to children in the future to impose an immediate custodial sentence.
He told Knowles, who appeared in the dock wearing a dark suit and looking at the judge as he spoke: "Cases of abducting a child can vary immensely on their facts.
"The public are always very concerned when they hear the offence abduction of a child and you have pleaded guilty to four such offences."
He went on: "During your association with that girl you took a liking to her and you allowed your contact with her to stray from the high professional standards which the public demand from people in your position, which I suspect you've given in the past."
He added: "The consequences of your behaviour here have resulted in you losing your job, you have lost your reputation and such is the shame which you understandably feel, you've moved away from Coventry to live with your wife elsewhere."
Harinderpal Dhami, prosecuting, told the court the relationship between Knowles and the teenager grew closer when Knowles sent her a text message near Christmas break last year.
They were in touch on a daily basis before meeting up four times in person on dates in December last year and January this year, he said.
Mr Dhami told the court: "He had said if he was 40 years younger he would not let her say no, and she said did he not realise he could lose everything?
"He said she was worth it."
Their relationship was not sexual and there were no instances of violence or touching, the court heard.
Mr Dhami said text messages Knowles and the girl exchanged were "typical" of the sort that might be sent in a relationship between two teenagers.
They talked about their day, what they were doing and on one occasion discussed what they were both wearing to a school prom, including some talk of Knowles' underwear.
"(Knowles said) if he sent messages like 'I love you' and 'you look nice' he said that to boost her confidence," Mr Dhami said.
An investigation was started at the school after the teenager was talking to one of her friends about the teacher and her friend's mother overheard them.
Knowles, of Beechmore Road in Birmingham, said in police interview he accepted the messages and relationship were inappropriate.
He resigned from his role at the school shortly after details came out.
Heidi Kubik, defending Knowles, told Judge Coates he was embarrassed by and ashamed of his actions.
His wife has decided to support her husband but with "inevitable reproach", she said.
"At the age of 58 Brian Knowles was a man who enjoyed a good reputation, a good career, a good social life and, for a period of madness lasting a few weeks throughout the course of January of this year, he has thrown all of that away," Miss Kubik said.
"He lost a job that he was good at and that he enjoyed, in a post in which he had been respected.
"He has lost his good character, he has lost his good reputation and through his own actions he has lost his position within the local community that he had enjoyed.
"He is so ashamed and embarrassed by his foolish actions of those few weeks that he cannot face former friends and colleagues."
Judge Coates did not impose a sexual offences prevention order as part of sentence but put in place a 12 month supervision order.
Knowles was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,800.
Commenting after the case, Elizabeth Jack, senior crown prosecutor from West Midlands CPS, said: "Brian Knowles was a highly experienced and respected teacher but nevertheless embarked on a personal relationship with the 15-year-old, in the course of which he met her, took her out in his car and exchanged hundreds of text messages with her.
"As his school's child protection lead, Mr Knowles was fully aware that by taking the victim out on shopping trips and to restaurants without the permission or knowledge of her parents, his actions contravened the law.
"He would have also been aware that buying her gifts and using her mobile telephone number to send her text messages of an affectionate and intimate nature was totally inappropriate."
Ms Jack added: "A friend of the victim became aware of what the defendant was doing and she subsequently became so concerned that she notified a teacher at his school who in turn then called the relevant authorities.
"The resulting police investigation and the subsequent court proceedings have had a far-reaching and damaging effect on the victim, consequences of which the defendant appears to have been heedless when embarking on the relationship."
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