Teacher guilty of grooming teen pupil

A TEACHER'S career is today in tatters after he was found guilty of sexually grooming one of his teenage pupils.

A TEACHER'S career is today in tatters after he was found guilty of sexually grooming one of his teenager pupils.

IT supply teacher John Cope, 44, of of Stow Road, Ixworth, near Bury St Edmunds, exchanged flirty messages and chatted online and on the phone with the girl while he was employed through an agency as a teacher at Brighton and Hove High School in East Sussex.

Cope was found guilty of sexual grooming yesterday. However the six man, six woman jury at Lewes Crown Court found him not-guilty of two counts of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity between January last year and May last year.

During the four-day trial they heard that topics of conversation between the teacher and his pupil included oral sex, the loss of Cope's virginity at the age of 15 and flavoured condoms.

In one text, the girl told Cope about the need for her to lose weight, to which he replied "we can find another way for you to burn calories".

The exchanges started when the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, confided in him that she "fancied someone she shouldn't' and he guessed she meant him.

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Instead of behaving responsibly, he actively encouraged her and told the girl that he felt the same way. He gave her his mobile phone number, which she stored under the name Fred, and told her to delete any texts he sent her.

In another message the teenager asked him whether he still felt the same way about her, to which he replied: "Of course, don't be silly. Remember that I said it would be hard sometimes.'

Prosecutor Jonathan Davies said Cope abused the trust placed in him to form a relationship with the girl, which he intended to lead to sexual activity between them.

However, their relationship never progressed to this stage as the girl's parents found out about what was going on.

Her mother was alerted when she heard her daughter's mobile phone receive a message during the night as the girl slept, and she read it out of curiosity.

Shocked at its content, she confronted her daughter who insisted Fred was a boy she had met in Essex. However her parents were able to work out that he was in fact a teacher at her school.

They called police who analysed both Cope and the girl's phones, and suspected that he intended to groom her as a future sexual partner.

He was sacked from the school following his arrest on May 20 last year after being employed there through an agency.

Cope, who gained an IT degree from Anglia Polytechnic University and an MBA from the University of Brighton, told jurors during his defence that he only wanted to help the teenager through a troubled phase and denied planning to groom the girl as a future sexual partner.

He said he could offer no explanation why he exchanged risque text messages with her, but admitted he should have cut contact with her sooner.

During the trial it also emerged that he had an account on the social networking website Bebo, where some 50 other schoolgirls including the victim were his online friends.

He told the court that he cancelled his account after being told to do so by his line manager and later wrote a letter of apology to the school.

Judge Michael Lawson QC banned Cope from working with children but adjourned sentencing until January 8.

He was released on bail.

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