This Morning I am Very Angry

So. Stuart Kerner, a 44 year old teacher, had sex with a 16 year old pupil. He had sex with her at the school and at her home over an 18 month period. This happened in Britain, a civilized, democratic society in which children have rights and are valued. Stuart Kerner’s fate was in the hands of the law. And the law states that a child under the age of 18 cannot consent to sex with a teacher. It’s there to eradicate the grey area (what grey area? What?) about pupil/teacher relationships. It’s about the balance of power and it’s very clear. Stuart Kerner broke the law, and Stuart Kerner came to trial.
The law gave Stuart Kerner an eighteen-month sentence.
The law suspended that sentence.
Now let’s be clear. Kerner has been put on the Sex Offender Register, which precludes him from teaching. And the decision to suspend a sentence is available to a judge, and can be implemented for a wide range of good reasons. So what were those good reasons in this case?
Judge Joanna Greenberg QC’s decision was taken for reasons that should boil the blood of anyone who gives a fuck. The last time I was this angry was when Victoria Coren-Mitchell posted a blog asking for an appreciation of nuance in the Roman Polanski rape case. I don’t think there’s a great deal of nuance in the anal rape of a thirteen year old girl. And I don’t think there’s much nuance here, either. He was a teacher. She was a pupil. He was responsible; she was the victim.
But Greenberg didn’t see a child. She saw a temptation, an emotionally manipulative siren. No matter that the girl, according to Greenberg, ‘was vulnerable and needy and had a troubled home life.’ She was a stalker. Her friends said so. ‘There is no evidence you groomed her,’ Greenberg said to Kerner. ‘If anything, she groomed you.’ The girl had a history of lying; the Guardian reports Greenberg as saying she ‘showed no compunction’ about lying when it suited her.
Stuart Kerner (and this is a 44 year old teacher we’re talking about) was ‘emotionally vulnerable.’ He’d been manipulated. And his wife had had a miscarriage. A probation officer says Kerner considered suicide before the sentence was announced.
So the sentence was suspended because she was at fault. He was the victim. That pesky law, hey, we can’t get round it – but we’ll do what we can to minimize the impact that witch has had on your already troubled life.
But wait. He carried a condom around so that they could have sex at school if she became too ‘irresistible.’ There’s no way that a sixteen year old girl would respond to that by actually trying to be irresistible, is there? There’s no way she’d hang around hoping to see him, hoping he’d notice her and prove, using the language he’s taught her, that she is indeed irresistible? That’s not grooming, is it? And meeting repeatedly? Did she do that on her own?
Presumably there was no way on Earth he could have reported her stalking behaviour (which couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with proving herself irresistible, could it?) to senior management. He couldn’t have avoided being alone with her at school. There was no other course open to him, as the victim of an intelligent, manipulative schoolgirl, than to bring a condom to school, put a chair under the handle of a cupboard and push his penis inside her.
So. What have we learned this morning, readers? We’ve had a good many lessons in recent months. Women – well, we’re already there on not getting drunk, not walking alone in the dark (in fact best be home by sunset), not getting into unlicensed minicabs and not wearing provocative clothing. Oh, and not having too many opinions. And perhaps best to avoid being a lesbian in South Africa. Or a girl in India. But today, thanks to Judge Joanna Greenberg QC, we’ve learned that being a sixteen year old girl with a crush on your teacher is off limits too.
And men. You’re fifty percent of the world’s population and you’ve got so much going for you. You wouldn’t let misogynistic crime dramas (like The Fall – ooh, there was a wicked siren of a teenager in that, too, wasn’t there?) or even an intelligent, experienced QC persuade you that sixteen year old girls are anything other than sixteen year old girls, would you? Not just because you have, or may one day have, daughters, but because you are loved, and our future as a species rests on us seeking to understand each other.
Being a stalker, a liar and emotionally vulnerable proved to be a crime in a young girl, but was Stuart Kerner’s vindication. Like Ched Evans, Stuart Kerner protests his innocence, and like Ched Evans, he seems to think he’s suffered enough.

7 thoughts on “This Morning I am Very Angry

  1. Oh, Antonia, thank you for this. Everything you said resonates.

    Frankly, it doesn’t even matter if the girl did “encourage” Kerner; in situations where one person has a significantly greater amount of power than another, like, oh I DON’T KNOW, a teacher and a student, having sex is Not A Thing You Can Do. It is the job of the person occupying the dominant end of that power dynamic to be a responsible adult.

    The fact that the interpreter of the law in this case seems not to understand this is…beyond words.

  2. Your anger is not only justified Antonia, but necessary. It is outrageous and I’m amazed that this kind of thing can happen (I don’t mean having sex with a schoolgirl but getting away with it) – and thank you for drawing attention to it.

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