This report by Christine Cunningham appeared on EDP on the 5th February 2011
A dedicated retired art teacher was last night hoping to rebuild his life after being cleared of sexually assaulting a pupil at a Norfolk school.
Christopher Harvey, 63, a former teacher at Northgate High School, Dereham, was yesterday cleared by a Norwich Crown Court jury of indecent assault at the school during a one-to-one teaching session he had with the girl between September 1997 and July 2001.
The case brings into focus the continuing debate about teachers’ careers being blighted by com-plaints that are later found to be false.
Andrew McCandlish, Norfolk secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: “We view this very seriously. It’s causing people a lot of unnecessary aggravation. Even when allegations don’t stick, people are becoming ill.”
The government is planning to change the rules to introduce anonymity until a charge is brought.
The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, did not make a complaint until 2008 when she saw Harvey, who took early retirement in 2001 because of ill-health, in a cafe in Norwich.
Harvey, of St Michael’s Close, Aylsham, who dedicated his life to teaching and was described by colleagues as one of the “most respected members of staff,” spoke last night of his shock after the girl made the allegation years later. It also came at a difficult personal time for him as his mother, whom he cared for, had recently died.
The jury took just three hours to find him not guilty and he smiled as he left the dock after months of intense strain.
Afterwards he made a statement through his solicitor, Ian Fisher of Fisher Cowe, in which he said he felt “relieved and vindicated by the jury’s verdict” and thanked everyone who had supported him including ex-colleagues, former pupils and family and friends.
Mr Fisher said: “He was a very well-respected and devoted teacher for many years. He was shocked when the allegation was brought many years after he retired and he has had to live under the shadow of the allegation for a long period of time before it came to trial.
“He feels relieved and vindicated by the jury’s verdict and he is grateful to all those family, friends, ex-colleagues and ex-pupils whose views expressed particularly fulsome support for him. He now looks forward to resuming the enjoyment of his retirement.”
During the trial the prosecution claimed that Harvey had shown pictures of naked men and women to the girl and touched her breast while giving her a lunchtime lesson.
It was also claimed by the girl that he had asked her to draw pictures of herself naked and take them in for him to see.
Harvey, who started out as a teacher in 1973 at the Dereham Boys Secondary before it became Northgate High School, denied categorically all the allegations and said he had been shocked when the girl had once brought in a drawing, claiming it was of her own body.
In evidence he told how he had many cards of thanks from past pupils who expressed how grateful they were for his effective teaching.
During the trial Irene Sincock, who had been a teacher at the school for 23 years, said Harvey “was one of the most well-respected members of staff” and Julian Phelps, who had been a teacher at the school for 22 years, said he never witnessed Harvey doing anything inapropriate at the school.