Ex-teacher jailed for affair with pupil

A FORMER head of music at Ipswich High School for Girls has been jailed for six months after admitting an affair with a sixth-form pupil.

Colin Adwent

A FORMER head of music at Ipswich High School for Girls has been jailed for six months after admitting an affair with a sixth-form pupil.

Peter Clayton, 56, of Laburnum Close, Great Bentley, near Colchester, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to four counts of sexual activity with a child while in a position of trust.

These included kissing the teenage girl on the lips, touching her intimately, and getting her to perform sex acts with him.

It was accepted by Ipswich Crown Court that Clayton, a teacher for more than 30 years, was not guilty by law of a further seven counts of sexual activity with the girl due to her age at the time.

Hugh Vass, prosecuting, said the girl and the director of music had formed a relationship although he was not her teacher.

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After exchanging e-mails they began texting each other. One said: “Wishing (girl's name) goodnight, my gentle child, my dear one”.

The texts became increasingly more explicit and sexual, the court heard.

Mr Vass said: "The criminality is that there was a breach of trust. There's no question of coercion.”

The offences were discovered after the girl left school and began a new relationship at university.

"She described, as she put it, that she'd had an affair with a teacher at her school,” said Mr Vass.

A disciplinary hearing ended with Clayton being suspended after the girl's boyfriend alerted the school to the allegations.

The court heard the relationship continued for a short time after the girl had left school.

Richard Atchley, mitigating, said Clayton committed the offences at a time when he was on a "downward spiral” following the death of his father.

Mr Atchley said: “Up to this point he lived a life of the utmost integrity.”

Part of a statement by his wife which was read out in court gave an insight into Clayton's state of mind following his father's death.

It read: “I feel he was heading for a complete breakdown or catastrophe of some sort.”

Mr Atchley said: “He (Clayton) hasn't been back to work since and, for a man who has taught for more than 30 years, it's gut-wrenching.

“It takes his life away. Music has been his life. His life, his hobby, his teaching have all gone. His marriage is hanging on by a string.”

The court was told Clayton, who has been married for 30 years, had an "impeccable” previous record as a teacher.

Two colleagues and friends Alexander Anthony and Canon Pat Prestney gave testimonials to the court about Clayton's character.

Judge Anthony Bate said Clayton's personal problems were "no excuse” for the offences that led to "a very public downfall and disgrace”.

Referring to the explicit texts Judge Bate said: “It was quite shocking the language both you and (the girl) were prepared to use. It was quite clear what both of you had in mind. You must be punished, as you recognise, for crossing the forbidden line.”

Judge Bate decided Clayton's risk of future offending was low enough not to ban him from working with children in future.

When Clayton is released from prison he will have to sign the Sex Offenders' Register.

In a statement released after the sentencing, Ipswich High School said: “The school acted swiftly and appropriately as soon as we became aware of the allegations against Mr Clayton.

“In addition to conducting our own internal enquiries and instigating disciplinary procedures, we did not hesitate to inform all the appropriate authorities and cooperated fully with them at every stage of their investigations.”