Teacher jailed for lesbian affair

A drama teacher who took advantage of a vulnerable pupil and had a lesbian affair with her was jailed for three years today.

Caroline French, 38, stepped in to save the girl from bullies at the school where she was head of the drama department but committed a "gross breach of trust" when she encouraged an intimate relationship between the pair.

Sentencing her, Judge Stuart Baker said French was "well respected" by colleagues and pupils at her former school in Blackpool, Lancashire, and had excellent career prospects but on the other hand was "manipulative" and "vindictive".

French, of Darlington, had denied indecently assaulting the teenager and told her trial in March she was not gay despite contrary evidence from pupils and staff at the school.

A jury at Preston Crown Court did not believe her version of events and convicted her of three counts of sexual assault and one count of indecency with a child.

The offences took place between January and April 2004 when her victim was aged 15.

French exchanged rings with the girl and even asked her to refer to her at school as "Danny", a pretend boyfriend, to mask their affair.

The relationship ended and months later French became intimate with another girl whom she taught at a different school in the resort, the jury was told.

She moved into French's former home in St Annes in September 2004 when she was 16 and a sixth-form student. They then allegedly began a sexual relationship which lasted three years as the teenager changed her surname by deed poll to French.

Giving evidence, French, of Ashtree Close, said they were not lovers and the girl was merely her lodger.

A police investigation into that relationship led to the uncovering of the earlier affair with the schoolgirl, although she chose not to complain about the matter.