Teacher Jeremy Forrest turns down chance to speak in own defence over schoolgirl abduction charge

Jury hears he 'groomed' pupil he ran away to France with, while his defence lawyer says it was to stop her committing suicide 

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The Independent Online

The teacher accused of abducting a 15-year-old schoolgirl to France will not give any evidence in his own defence.

On a day when the jury heard character references from Jeremy Forrest's friends, family and co-workers, the jury was advised by Judge Michael Lawson QC that they could make "any inferences as appear proper" in the defendant's decision not to give evidence.

In summing up for the prosecution, Richard Barton said that Forrest could be labelled as a "paedophile" who "groomed" the schoolgirl, adding: "You may feel he is a man who is flattered by the attention of very young, vulnerable girls."

And referring to Forrest's decision not to give evidence, Mr Burton said it could be because, having heard "some pretty lame excuses for homework not being done on time", he would think that "my dog ate it won't cut the mustard".

Ronald Jaffa, defending, told the jury that Forrest had gone with the girl to France because he feared she was suicidal. He said that this was a "realistic situation" and the defendant had acted to ensure her well-being.

He said: "She was very desperate, she had suicidal thoughts and she was assertive. If he had not taken her, the alternative consequences were likely to be much worse."

Throughout Forrest's character references he was described as a "talented and inspirational" teacher who "cared for others" and who has spent his time in prison teaching other inmates.

His sister, Carrie Hanspaul, a mother to three, told the court: "Jeremy has been in a very difficult relationship for the last six years but did not want to worry any of his family, especially our parents, with his problems.

"Instead he withdrew more and more and tried to deal with the issues himself. I believe he became more and more depressed." She added: "Jeremy is not only my brother, he is a wonderful uncle and godfather to my three young daughters."

Benedict Beaumont, a former colleague of Forrest at Bishop Bell School, said: "He was popular with pupils and staff at the school, but more importantly was respected by everyone as a talented and conscientious teacher.

"He is still relatively young but had a very bright future in teaching ahead of him."

Judge Lawson adjourned the case until tomorrow when he will sum up the case before sending the jury out to consider its verdict.