Wednesday 28 January 2015

A Safeguarding Issue To Consider

Safeguarding related work features in our profile and does not feature regularly in our blogs. However we feel it essential that we look at the issues surrounding a Deputy Head Teacher who was convicted of having sex with a 16 year old pupil.
This has been prepared by one of our team whose background incorporates a law degree and several related professional dimensions to his work.

Last week we happened across two news articles talking about the trial of Stuart Kerner. Kerner is a deputy head teacher who was convicted of having sex with a child, a girl of 16 years old. From the words used in the court, it is strongly suggested that the girl made advances towards him, and that he gave in to temptation.[1] He was given a non-custodial sentence for two counts of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust.

The question we ask here is, given the clear breach of the law and the gravity of the situation, how was this allowed to happen? We will examine the following areas:
  • The law that governs this type of offence
  • The safeguarding ramifications
  • The prominent culture on blaming the victim
  • The reduction of the perpetrator’s responsibility.

The Law

The law that governs this particular offence is the Sexual Offences (Amendment) act 2000.[2] Section 3(1): “… it shall be an offence for a person aged 18 or over—

(a)to have sexual intercourse (whether vaginal or anal) with a person under that age; or

(b)to engage in any other sexual activity with or directed towards such a person,

if (in either case) he is in a position of trust in relation to that person.”

The sentence for committing this offence – and the punishment we therefore might reasonably expect Kerner to have received – is in Section 3(4): “A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable—

(a)on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both;

(b)on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or to a fine, or to both.

Given that Kerner was neither given a custodial sentence nor fined, there is a disparity between the crime he has committed and the punishment received.

Safeguarding Children

When somebody in a prominent position of responsibility has sex with a 16-year-old girl, there is a clear safeguarding issue. It is very unlikely that Kerner didn’t know that what he was doing was wrong. This has not been challenged in the articles, but is mentioned here to clarify the legal position. Safeguarding training is a matter of course of all teachers now, and this includes provisions on dealing with infatuations. Schools have designated people with responsibility for safeguarding: Usually the head teacher if it’s a primary school, and a member of the senior management team in a secondary school. Kerner may have been in a position to have responsibility for safeguarding; he might even have delivered the training himself. It is inconceivable that he wouldn’t have known that the act of sex with a student was wrong, the consequences of being discovered, and that the correct thing to do would have been to report it as a safeguarding concern while discreetly maintaining the dignity of all the people involved.

Victim Blaming

In this case, there has been a disturbing climate of blaming the victim for the crime. Judge Joanna Greenberg QC said that the girl targeted Kerner at an “emotionally vulnerable” time. She was also quoted to have justified her decision by saying of the victim: “If grooming is the right word to use, it was she who groomed you, [and] you gave in to temptation.”[3] If there is any truth in this, it does not diminish the fact that Kerner has broken the law, and is indisputably the perpetrator of the crime. And yet, for these reasons, he has a non-custodial sentence.

In Gaby Hinsliff’s article, she also says that the girl was described by the judge as ‘“vulnerable and needy [with] a troubled home life”; she had a history of attention-seeking behaviour, including pretending to have been in an accident.[4]’ She compares this to similarly described girls who were singled out and targeted for abuse by gangs of older men in Rotherham and Rochdale, where in those cases the authorities were condemned for failing to aid those girls from troubled backgrounds. This is a stark contrast to the suspended sentence given to a deputy head who “fails to see something unhealthy in a troubled 16-year-old’s adoration.”[5] Why was the perpetrator, in this case, not dealt with in a similar way?

Julie Bindel’s article highlights this situation in a climate of victim-blaming culture that has been around since the 1980’s[6]. Arguably, the culture has been going on for even longer; Bindel’s examples begin in the 80’s and end with her most recent example of Bob Bellew in April 2014. She appears to suggest that the culture of blaming the victim is nothing new, and the fact that the case of Stuart Kerner was decided by a female judge apparently did very little to break the trend.

Bindel has been criticised for this point by some of the people who read the article, as the examples she gives are of rape, sexual abuse and sexual assault – none of which are the specific offence that Kerner has been convicted for. She is also criticised for failing to recognise that the judge would have reached her decision by examining the facts of the case, and deciding it on their merits. On the former criticism, we would argue that in all of those situations, there is a culture of blaming the victim, and there are many cases every year where this happens. On the latter, while we recognise that the judge decided the case on its merits, we would still challenge the disparity between the nature of the crime and the sentence received.

Reducing Responsibility for the Perpetrator

Judge Greenberg commented that it was an “emotionally vulnerable” time for Stuart Kerner.[7] The emotional vulnerability she refers to is that Kerner’s wife had a difficult pregnancy, and had miscarried on the week he had sex with his student.

This is a situation where the judgement was made on the merits of the case, and Judge Greenberg is within her rights to reduce the sentence on whatever grounds she wishes – paying heed to the possibility that she may be challenged on it.[8] Her opinion gives rise to the notion that it was the student who groomed Kerner – despite the fact that the student could not legally do so, and despite Kerner’s breach of both the law and his responsibility as a teacher.


It is a solid fact that Stuart Kerner was in clear breach of the law and his responsibility. It is less clear how Joanna Greenberg QC arrived at the conclusion that his student had groomed him. While she recognises that Kerner failed to act with the responsibly and restraint expect of him, she has received harsh criticism for the sentence being too lenient, and her judgement appears to be blaming the victim for the crime.

This highlights the wider issue of how the legal system perceives and deals with cases such as this. Too often, there is an ill-proportioned amount of blame and responsibility put on the victims of sex crimes, and not enough consideration for the fact that the perpetrators have broken the law. This creates an environment where the laws designed to protect people from sex crimes can be creatively interpreted, poorly applied and in some cases almost completely ignored. How, then, can it be said that the law protects victims of such crimes?

The situation with Stuart Kerner ought to serve as a cautionary tale. His student appears to have conducted herself in a manner that was conducive to Kerner committing the crime – yet the law says that the responsibility for her safety and his actions fall squarely on Kerner’s shoulders. Having avoided a custodial sentence, and being on a suspended sentence for eighteen months, we might wonder if anything has been learned from this at all.


After some research, we have not been able to find any information relating to how Bexleyheath Academy – Kerner’s former school – handled the matter. All we can say for certain at this time is that Kerner was charged in August 2013 during the summer holidays.[9]


Wednesday 21 January 2015

Would It Surprise You To Know That People Agreed With This Simple Idea?

And here it is

"Always great to work with clients who understand that good outcomes and quick fixes don't often go together"We tweeted this in mid-January and it attracted a good number of "likes". Maybe this was at a point when some of our followers felt that the New Year Resolutions were beginning to have an impact and that things were starting to move forward.This feedback came at a time when past clients had been in touch, thanking us for our work with them and telling us about substantial changes they've made as a direct outcome of participating in one of our programmes. Here's a quotation form one of them: a few things have been changed to protect the client's identity and the name of the employer

" Hi John, I hope you remember me: I had a few sessions with you a while back when I returned to work from maternity leave and found it a struggle to work within the new team that had been created. Your sessions helped me move to the decision of putting my family first and move away from a job that came with lots of unhappiness. I did it! I set up a micro-business with a clear ten year plan. Thank you for helping me decide to get there"

What a great text to receive and it was sent at 18:51 on 31/12/2014, so maybe my former client was taking stock of the last year and looking to the future with a sense of purpose, achievement, passion and purpose.

When I think about this further there's a lot going on. We have someone who had all the resources in place to make the changes she wanted to see in her life. This was enhanced by what as I shall described as the "emotionally turbo-charged" decision to put her family first. My former client was determined that she would move away from a painful place and towards one of fulfilment and enjoyment.

Part of our blended approach is consistent with Motivational Interviewing and here's an easy to watch clip that highlights some of the techniques. I must point out that the neither of the characters is either me or my client!!!

Changes takes time to stick and too often we try something only to slip back and we brand ourselves as "failures", we have "fallen off the ladder and crashed to the ground

I prefer to think about "regression" rather than failure. Making decisions is easy, committing to them is hard. Here's an idea-develop an internal dialogue that say something like

"Bad days notwithstanding, I can do this!"

We don't "fall off ladders", rather we slip a little on the Helter Skelter of life: it's a much healthier image because a slight slip on a helter skelter means we go back a little, recover our motivation and get on with it, We don't have to "Begin again" because we had progressed well past beginning, We were "doing it!"

I'm sure my former client has (will) have challenging days. There is however a powerful message of purpose, values and authenticity in her message to me which made it a fantastic "Happy New Year" wish without even using the words.

You can find out more about us at or on Facebook DY3 Solutions Ltd.
You can contact me at jpd@dy3solutions.mygbiz,com.

Good luck!

Monday 5 January 2015

How Would You Discuss The Power of Relationship Abuse as A Work Place Issue?

If you've been in a shared space with 15 people today, there's a good chance that 3 or 4 of them will have experienced Domestic Violence/Relationship Abuse. 

Surprised? Don't be. There are some truly shocking statistics that tell of the cost of Domestic Violence/Relationship Abuse to the individual, to society and employer.

The targets of Domestic Violence will have been abused:

  • Sexually
  • Physically
  • Emotionally
  • Psychologically
  • Economically
They will have been assaulted and controlled by partners over a sustained period. 

A client has asked us to deliver a piece of Customer Care Development for a team of 15 members of support staff. Our discussions helped us to design a programme that delivers an event where Customer Care is addressed through the following 3 Themes.
  1. Safeguarding
  2. Domestic Violence/Relationship Abuse
  3. Mediation/Conflict Resolution

This novel approach means that the organisation's Service Users will receive a meaningful event that looks at Customer Care as a process that honours high ethical values and places the client at the centre of actions and decision making. Not only is this the right thing to do but it also makes sound financial sense in creating a life-time relationship between the organisation and its customers. One that is based on feelings and engagement that go beyond the traditional understanding of "service"

New Developments: Updating our materials required that we look at proposed changes/developments in the Law that address Coercive & Controlling Behaviour. Here's What We Found

New Domestic Violence Law:

Key Facts

  • The announcement by the Home Secretary Theresa May is that there will be a new domestic abuse offence of: “Coercive and Controlling Behaviour.”
  • Maximum penalty: 5 years imprisonment and a fine.[1]
  • New law is designed to protect victims by outlawing sustained patterns of domestic abuse that stop short of serious physical violence, but amount to extreme psychological and emotional abuse.
  • According to the Telegraph, there will be no statutory time limit for the offences, which means that abuse dating back years can be taken into account.[2] (This was not on the official press statement, so this may not be true.)

  • Coercive and controlling behaviour can include:
    • Preventing the victim from having friendships or hobbies,
    • Refusing them access to money
    • Controlling everyday aspects of their life such as when they are allowed to eat, sleep and go to the toilet.

  • A number of ways that witness testimony could be supported at prosecution:
    • Documentary evidence: Threatening emails or text messages
    • Bank statements that show the perpetrator has sought to control the victim financially.

  • The new law will be introduced as a series of amendments to the Serious Crime Bill, currently going through the House of Lords, and is expected to be on the statute books in the New Year.[3]


  • This change to the law is being made in response to a consultation over the summer (2014.) It has been welcomed by Polly Neate (Chief executive of Women’s Aid,) Rhea Gargour and Antonia Packard (Sara Charlton Charitable Foundation) and Laura Richards (Chief Executive of Paladin.)
  • It has been observed by victims that the Coercive and Controlling behaviour - from which the new law seeks to protect them - is in many ways the worst part of the abuse, as opposed to the physical violence.
    • There is something in that, as there is not currently a specific offence for controlling behaviour. Such law that currently exists to protect people from domestic abuse focuses on breach of a restraining order, damaging property, assault, burglary, rape, kidnapping and murder. This does not describe the essence of domestic abuse.[4]
  • However it is important to remember that this new offence is not law yet, as the amendments to the Serious Crime Bill have not yet been made.
  • Efforts should therefore be made to monitor the amendments to the bill, so that it is fully understood exactly what counts as the offence, the penalty and whether the offences can be retroactive.

What to do next

We can provide training and development for your teams. 
Contact us on 0121 602 7191/07984409937 or by email

We're here to Discuss, Design and Deliver a programme for you and your colleagues.