A 15-year-old boy convicted of sexual assault against a girl in a classroom has been allowed to continue to attend the same school as his victim who is forced to ‘pretend he is not there’.
The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons was put on the sex offenders register after being found guilty of two counts of sexual assault.
The boy was allowed to remain at the school whilst awaiting prosecution and was then tried at a youth court almost a year after the assault.
He was given a restraining order and told not to contact or approach his victim. The school said it followed all procedures correctly, however the victim now has to share corridors with the boy who assaulted her.
The young girl is now forced to attend the same school as her attacker (stock photo)
Speaking to the BBC the victim said: ‘I have to just keep my head down, pretend he’s not there, otherwise it makes me panic.’
‘It was known that boy was very ‘hands on’ with girls. He started making comments about me, touching my legs and putting his hands on me.
‘Then gradually he started putting his hands up my skirt, touching my chest and I kept telling him to stop.’
The victim said she wanted to leave but that she felt as though she couldn’t do anything and that she was ‘powerless’.
Now the victim’s family, from Essex, has said that they do not believe the youngster should be allowed to stay at the school.
Her mother said: ‘I think the day he was found guilty he should have been excluded. He should not be allowed near my daughter or any woman right now. I worry every single day, even now. I don’t feel the boy was adequately punished at all.
‘But we are so proud of her for standing up – there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think I’m so proud’.
Data from a freedom of information request put forward by the BBC revealed that at least 6,289 sexual assaults took place in and around schools between 2015 and 2017 – and there was a 60% rise across those three years.
This may include assaults on staff as well as pupils and was supplied by 26 of the 45 police forces from England and Wales, but excluded Scotland.
The victim said that her attacker was known to be ‘hands on’ with other female pupils at the school
Some forces said certain offences took place outside school, or on the bus on the way to school.
In terms of what restrictions the boy will face back at school, these would have been part of the court order which would have also set restrictions on the boy, which included him not approaching the victim.
How restraining orders work in the UK
Restraining orders are used in various ways in the UK and can be used post-conviction and post-aquittal.
Restraining orders are primary used in domestic situations, are implemented to protect named persons and can be made on conviction and on acquittal.
When sentencing for any offence the court can make a restraining order for the purpose of protecting a person (the victim or victims of the offence or any other person mentioned in the order) from conduct which amounts to harassment or which will cause a fear of violence.
Restraining orders are usually applied when the defendant and the victim are known to each other and where there is a continuing risk to the victim of harassment or violence after the date of conviction.
According to the CPS, these orders are intended to be preventative and protective. The guiding principle is that there must be a need for the order to protect a person or persons. A restraining order is therefore preventative, not punitive.
The Department for Education issued guidelines in May last year as to show schools should deal with sexual assault and the approach they should take once a pupil is convicted. However, this is dealt with on a case by case basis.
Anna Cole, inclusion specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, told the BBC she suspected the rise was down to better reporting by individuals and schools.
She said: ‘These are really complicated decisions that schools have to make, there will be all sorts of competing pressures on schools to make these decisions.
‘Schools know they can’t take this lightly. It can’t just be dismissed as ‘banter’ or a normal thing that happens anymore.’
Ms Cole was however, clear on the steps that schools should undertake following an assault.
‘Schools should immediately remove the alleged perpetrator from the same classes and also consider how they travel in and out of school together and how they are in the corridors and the playground so they are kept separate.
‘This isn’t to make a decision of guilt on the alleged perpetrator its really to protect them both and safeguard them both.’
This is while the NSPCC said the number of its Childline counselling sessions for victims of sexual abuse carried out by other children increased by a third between 2016-17 and 2017-18.
Almudena Lara, head of policy, said: ‘We are alarmed at the number of sexual assaults that are taking place inside school gates, where parents rightly expect that their children are kept safe.
‘Children must be supported to recognise what constitutes abuse and harassment, teachers must ensure that victims understand they are not to blame.’
Speaking to the BBC ahead of Inside Out on BBC One which aired on Wednesday evening, the victim said the guilty verdict helped her to deal with the ordeal.
‘It took a massive weight off my shoulders to be listened to. For most part I felt I was going mad. [I was] told in court I was a liar, but to be believed was a relief.’
She added that it had been hard to stay at school knowing that her convicted attacker had been allowed to continue with his studies.
‘I thought I wasn’t going to see him again, because I thought if they know he is a sex offender and the person he attacked is in the same school then they would take him out, but they just didn’t.’
While a Department for Education spokesperson said: ‘Sexual assault is illegal and can have a devastating impact on its victims. Schools are predominately safe places and pupils and parents rightly expect them to be so.
‘In September last year, we strengthened our guidance on how all schools and colleges should support young victims of sexual assault, with additional advice on how to deal with allegations of child-on-child sexual assault and sexual harassment.
‘We are also making Relationships Education universal in all primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education universal in all secondary schools from September 2020 – both of which will teach children about healthy, respectful friendships and relationships, alongside topics such as consent’