A Warwick School master behaved in an ‘immoral and shabby’ manner in having sex with a 17-year-old schoolgirl – but his actions were not illegal, a judge has ruled.
Bryan Schalch, 39, of Chestnut Grove, Moreton Morrell, had pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to three charges of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust.
Schalch, who was head of Design and Technology at Warwick School, had sexual intercourse on three occasions with a 17-year-old schoolgirl – who was not a pupil at the school.
And following legal arguments in the absence of the jury part-way through his trial, Deputy Judge Richard Griffith-Jones ruled that Schalch had no case to answer.
The jury, on the directions of the judge, then formally entered not guilty verdicts on all three charges.
During the trial, prosecutor Sally Hancox said Schalch had met the 17-year-old girl through a friend of hers who was a pupil at Warwick School, where he was a teacher.
Schalch and the girl, a pupil at another school in the town, kept in touch by ‘e-mailing and stuff,’ she said in her video-recorded evidence, adding: “I had a teenage crush thing.”
In 2015 ‘stuff got more intense,’ and they began to meet on a supermarket car park where they would kiss.
“Nothing happened then, until we went to his. He invited me to go round.”
And the jury heard that they had intercourse on three occasions when she was still 17.
The girl had believed Schalch would leave his wife for her, and the relationship ended after she realised that was not to be the case, Miss Hancox told the jury.
She explained that there was no dispute over what the girl said happened – and the issue in the trial was whether, as a teacher, Schalch was in a position of trust towards her.
But at the end of the prosecution case, Schalch’s barrister Rachel Brand QC argued in the absence of the jury that there was no case for him to answer.
Judge Griffith-Jones observed that it was ‘not a case where he ever taught her.’
Pointing out that the Act was not designed to cover all teachers and pupils, Miss Brand reasoned: “If a teacher goes on holiday to Brighton and meets a pupil of 17 from another school in another part of the country and has intercourse with her, that is not an offence.
“The whole purpose of this Act is to ensure that pupils at a school are not abused by people at the school they attend.”
Making his ruling, Judge Griffith-Jones said: “There is no issue but that the person named is 17, and that Bryan Schalch was a teacher.
“The prosecution set out to prove that Bryan Schalch was in a position of trust in relation to her at the time of the sexual activity.
“It is no crime for someone simply to have a sexual relationship with another, as long as that other is at least 16, unless the section of the Sexual Offences Act is applicable, namely that there is a breach of trust.”
The judge observed that the girl had come across Schalch through a friend who was a pupil at Warwick School, and after they had kept in touch ‘there did commence a sexual relationship which involved three acts of intercourse.’
Describing it as a ‘wholly inappropriate and immoral relationship,’ Judge Griffith-Jones stressed: “It is important that I ensure the correct focus is on criminal behaviour, as opposed to shabby or immoral behaviour by the defendant.
“I intend to direct the jury that verdicts of not guilty must be brought back.”
At the request of Miss Hancox, he allowed the prosecution 24 hours to consider whether to challenge his ruling.
Told at the resumed hearing that it had been reviewed by the Chief Crown Prosecutor and would not be challenged, Judge Griffith-Jones then directed the jury to enter not guilty verdicts on all three charges.