A UK school teacher is about to be put in jail for having sex with schoolboys, 15 and 16 years old.

This question is only about the 16-year old part of the story:

The jury was told that it was a criminal offence for a teacher – “whether suspended or not” – to have “sexual contact” with a pupil under the age of 18.

Which law criminalises that?

The age of consent in the UK is 16. The teacher was suspended i.e. no longer teaching the pupil, so how could she be "in a position of trust"? Why was having sex with this particular 16-year old legally any different from any other 16-year old from the street?


Her legal team unsuccessfully tried to claim that she could not be guilty of sexual conduct with Boy B because she had been suspended.

— how exactly that claim was (or could be) unsuccessful? Did the judge rule that it was incorrect in law to claim that, and instructed the jury accordingly?

  • 3
    A suspended school teacher is still a school teacher. The pupil knows her as his school teacher, suspension doesn’t change that.
    – gnasher729
    Commented May 18 at 12:28
  • @gnasher729 Suspension as opposed to resignation? Fine. I can see it being reason to lose her professional registration. But crime?
    – Greendrake
    Commented May 18 at 12:37

1 Answer 1


In Canada, the relevant offence is s. 153 of the Criminal Code:

153 (1) Every person commits an offence who is in a position of trust or authority towards a young person, who is a person with whom the young person is in a relationship of dependency or who is in a relationship with a young person that is exploitative of the young person, and who

(a) for a sexual purpose, touches, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, any part of the body of the young person ...

Note there are three ways to get to this offence:

  • being in a position of trust
  • being in a relationship of dependency
  • being in a relationship that is exploitative

As to whether someone is in a position of trust, the courts have identified several considerations relevant to an assessment of whether a relationship of trust exists. They include:

The age difference between the accused and the young person;

The evolution of their relationship;

The status of the accused in relation to the young person;

The degree of control, influence or persuasiveness exercised by the accused over the young person; and

The expectations of the parties affected, including the accused, the young person and the young person’s parents.

R. v. Aird, 2013 ONCA 447, para. 28.

Nothing precludes a suspended teacher from being in a position of trust with a pupil. Especially if the teacher was a teacher at the pupil's school and the pupil knew the teacher as such.

In England and Wales, the relevant offence is at s. 16 of the Sexual Offences Act (2003).

The interpretive section (s. 21) does not require the teacher to have ever actually taught or to be currently teaching the particular child. The phrasing is:

This subsection applies if A looks after persons under 18 who are receiving education at an educational institution and B is receiving, and A is not receiving, education at that institution.

This judge apparently read this broadly enough to capture teachers who were still employed by the educational institution yet suspended. This has some intuitive appeal, given that the same concerns would present themselves before and after a suspension of a teacher. However, I can find no case law presenting an analogous situation, so this may be the first time this question has arisen. Whether this is correct in law will have to wait for appeal.

  • Re UK, it looks like the relevant "position of trust" section is 21(5): "This subsection applies if A looks after persons under 18 who are receiving education at an educational institution and B is receiving, and A is not receiving, education at that institution". However, a suspended teacher does not look after pupils at an educational institution.
    – Greendrake
    Commented May 18 at 14:18
  • @Greendrake Normally a teacher does not look after pupils at an educational institution outside of school hours, at weekends or while on holiday, either.
    – Lag
    Commented May 18 at 14:37
  • @Lag So, the teacher's lawyers likely made a nice try, knowing it wasn't legally correct?
    – Greendrake
    Commented May 18 at 15:03

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