Ballet teacher sentenced for abducting boy

Kim Pilling,Pa
Friday 07 January 2011 18:31 GMT

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.

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