I find it somewhat disturbing that my beloved husband’s gentle and old-fashioned courting would nowadays be considered as “grooming”, given that we met when I was 15 and he was 30.
Even worse, he is a teacher, although never my teacher. Presumably our three children are the product of abuse.
I am equally, if not more, disturbed by the disparity between the five-and-a-half-year sentence given to Jeremy Forrest for falling in love with the wrong person and the 15 months given to Stuart Hall for a decades-long campaign of child sexual abuse.
E Rogers, Burnley, Lancashire
Now that the trial of Jeremy Forrest is over, the knives are out for him – not least of all, E Jane Dickson’s (“Same sad old story of opportunism”, 21 June).
Forrest is down, let’s kick him! “Paedophile”, “underage sex”, “groomed” and other emotionally loaded words are being heaped on him, as well as his being accused of manipulating an emotionally unstable 15-year-old.
All the accusations of his having had a relationship with an underage girl are, of course, true and I am in no way disputing that, but for me (not least as a former teacher) his far greater crime was the abuse of his position of trust.
The girl may have been only 15 while this relationship was conducted, but her testimony was not one I would have attributed to one so young: she appears to have been articulate and to have taken a great deal of responsibility for the relationship on herself.
She is 16 now and her degree of maturity is clearly that of a much older young woman. To emphasise the tendency of girls to have crushes on their teachers is merely a putdown. True as it may be, it appears from this girl’s own words that it was much more than a crush.
She seems to have felt alienated from her family, and her school appears to have been either unaware of the relationship or unwilling to act. While the primary blame for what happened must be ascribed to Forrest, he is far from being the only one to have acted irresponsibly – and it does seem that he was committed and he did care.
Dr Michael Johnson, Brighton
It has been reported that the age of consent in France is 15 and that Jeremy Forrest would not have been guilty of sex offences had he been living and working there.
Because the relevant age here is 16, he is found guilty of such offences – increasing his sentence by four-and-a-half years.
As the judge also imposed a Sexual Offences Prevention Order banning Forrest from future unsupervised contact with children, his career as a teacher is destroyed.
Although he abused a position of trust and may have been weak and foolish, I do not see him as a paedophile, which is how he is being labelled. His pupil was not a prepubescent child but a teenager on the cusp of young adulthood, who in France would be seen as old enough to engage in a sexual relationship of her choice.
Why is he being pilloried in such an extreme fashion? And isn’t the real damage caused by this affair likely to be to the student herself, who is left feeling so guilty at her perceived ruination of the man she felt herself to be in love with that she calls “I’m sorry” across the courtroom to him, as he is taken down?
Charles Becker, Plymouth
It is amazing how a “child abduction” case, with a penalty of a year suddenly becomes a “sex with a child” case with an extra penalty of four-and-a-half years. The girl was not a child nor an unwilling participant, despite the prosecution’s talk of “grooming”.
I hope the couple will survive their ordeal after their loving but ill-advised relationship.
Barry Barber, Great Malvern, Worcestershire
GM the best way to deal with hunger
Lesley Docksey (letter, 22 June) says that for millennia “humanity existed very well on organically grown food”. Not so. For most, hunger was the norm.
Undernourishment increased the lethal nature of infections such as tuberculosis and measles, and famine was regular. The blight that killed the organic potato crops in Ireland in 1845 happened long ago, but its political impact lives on. So does its cause, Phytophthora infestans. GM will probably be the best way of seeing it off.
Hugh Pennington, Aberdeen
Paul Donovan (letter, 22 June) must think up a newer argument against GM crops. His old one, that new ideas are introduced so that a local monopoly can be obtained to drive out competitors and put up prices, failed when town-centre shop-owners tried to stop the opening of supermarkets.
Presumably, his point applies to any improvement, such as to our phones, TVs, cars etc. The desire to stop progress will fail because we, the consumers, like it.
GD Morris, Port Talbot, Wales
In their eagerness to educate the public on the benefits of GM, maybe ministers and scientists could start by explaining the net benefit to humanity of having a herbicide-resistant crop, which results in the vastly increased use of herbicide, herbicide residues in our food, environment and water, and the creation of resistant weeds requiring yet more potent herbicides – which would not have been needed if the crop had not been resistant in the first place.
Lucy Flint, Liss, Hampshire
Nazis of the 21st century
A Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head for daring to suggest that girls deserve to be educated.
A 14-year-old son of a Syrian coffee-shop owner executed in cold blood for telling a customer that he would not even extend credit to the Prophet.
Girls as young as 12 married off to men who are old enough to be their grandfathers.
Women who are raped stoned to death along with their attackers.
And President Obama wants to open a dialogue with the Taliban?
It is no more possible to reason with Islamic extremists than it would have been to reason with the Nazis. Islamic extremism is spreading, and failure to recognise that it is the 21st century’s Nazism and deal with it accordingly will lead to the same dire consequences that followed the free world’s reluctance to confront Nazism when it first reared its head.
Robert Readman, Bournemouth
Jamie’s empire: a hint of greed
James Thompson’s excellent article “The world’s his oyster” (22 June) made me sad. I greatly admire Jamie Oliver’s efforts to improve eating habits in the UK, but his expanding empire smacks of a new colonialism, not to say greed.
He works hard and deserves the rewards, but if I were his mum, I’d ask him to see his projects through and make them the very best he can. I fear he’s spreading himself too thin. Jamie “could do better” in schools, and plaudits for Fifteen have never been overwhelming. Build on what you’ve started and improve, I say. And don’t give up on the campaigning – the tide is turning against the food industry.
And do we really need yet another chain of formulaic and average restaurants turning our towns into replicas of each other?
Minty Phillips, London SW18
Eavesdropping is nothing new
I don’t understand why we are so surprised about the latest revelations of governments spying on citizens. It has been going on for years. In the late 1960s a colleague in Liverpool had the contents of a phone conversation relayed back to her by a public servant.
A friend was a telephone operator and told me that some phones were regularly monitored and phone calls recorded. And although it was a dismissable offence, his colleagues regularly listened in to a prostitute’s conversations.
Just because we now have electronic communications doesn’t mean that the practice stopped.
Jane Eades, London SW11
Why can’t they stick to the path?
“Doing as you are told” (“Ethical clash in the middle lane”, 18 June) is something we Brits are particularly sensitive about. It is a five-minute cycle ride along and over the river from our house to the local shops. It is almost all off-road and the track is clearly labelled, with a black surface for pedestrians and red surface for cyclists.
I have never cycled the whole way without negotiating at least one pedestrian on the cycle track. Why can’t cyclists stay on the cycle path and pedestrians on the footway?
Jenny Macmillan, Cambridge
How encouraging it is to see more glass ceilings coming down in the continuing fight for gender equality. The Care Quality Commission, an organisation populated heavily by women at its highest levels, has shown itself to be the equal of any male-dominated organisation when it comes to scandal and incompetence.
Paul Harper, London E15
I wonder if John Walsh intervened when his son was so publicly bullied by Charles Saatchi (Notebook, 20 June). I would have found it impossible not to defend my son – and equally difficult not to criticise Saatchi’s appalling taste in art and apparent inability to recognise history’s place in our spiritual lives.
Sara Neill, Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Congratulations to Deborah Ross (21 June) on getting so much inside (no pun intended) knowledge about the impending royal birth and particularly on getting it published in your columns – which are noted for ignoring most things royal. Could we now have an update from her on the health of Prince Philip?
Nick Maurice, Marlborough, Wiltshire
Syria vs Saudis
If I were a woman, would I be better treated in Syria under Assad or in Saudi Arabia?
Brian Ellis, Wigan
So a CIA whistleblower flees to Russia in his search for sanctuary. Am I missing something? Didn’t it used to be the other way round?
Steven Calrow, LiverpoolReuse content