A teacher convicted of causing the death of a 13-year-old girl on a school trip won his appeal yesterday.
Mark Duckworth, a teacher at Cockburn High School in Leeds, was convicted by a French court of the equivalent of manslaughter when the girl became separated from the school party during a swim.
He was convicted in April 2001 and given a six-month suspended jail sentence, which has now been quashed by an appeal hearing in Boulogne.
Mr Duckworth, one of five teachers on the trip to Le Touquet with 44 pupils, is still suspended on full pay and faces an inquiry by his employers, Leeds City Council, and an inquest into the death of the girl, Gemma Carter. He said after yesterday's hearing: "Let me say at the outset that throughout this ordeal my sympathies have been with Gemma's parents." He added that he "just wanted to get back to teaching".
Mr Duckworth's appeal was handled by the National Union of Teachers, whose general secretary, Doug McAvoy, said the case should not have been brought as a post-mortem examination showed Gemma died of thermal shock – an event no one could have foreseen.
He warned that the case could make teachers reluctant to take school trips "to countries where the legal system is so different from our own".