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Gloucestershire Business News

Former Crypt teacher sentenced for sexual offence

A former teacher at a historic Gloucester grammar school has been sentenced to a three year community order for communicating sexually with a boy whom he was privately tutoring.

Gloucester Crown Court heard yesterday (August 29) that 30-year-old Joseph Nicholson had always wanted to be a teacher and, following his training, he gained a position as an English master at The Crypt School.

He was later contacted by the parents of a boy who wanted private tuition in English for their son and Nicholson agreed to help during his spare time.

Prosecutor Alex Daymond said that, in the spring of last year, Nicholson offered to loan the boy some of his own books for additional reading. The boy and his tutor then began exchanging emails about schoolwork, but at that time nothing untoward occurred.

Mr Daymond said: "But when Nicholson loaned the boy a copy of The City and the Pillar, a novel by American writer Gore Vidal, about a young man who is coming of age and discovers his own homosexuality, he wrote a note inside the back cover, which included his phone number, but it was incomplete as it had one digit missing. Nicholson said he wasn't sure how the boy would feel about that.

"After a subsequent exchange of emails, the missing numeral was given (verbally) and the boy made contact with Nicholson. They began to message each other by WhatsApp.

"Nicholson told the boy to change the contact name for him on his phone to an alias and the name Joe Richardson was chosen.

"The boy then received numerous messages from Nicholson, asking him what books had he read. He began thinking that some of the messages were a bit weird in the way they were written. He said he would expect that sort of language from some of his friends, not from his tutor.

"On one occasion at the beginning of the summer, the boy was attending a family celebration and received his first blatantly sexual message, which stated that Nicholson was masturbating himself. Throughout the day, he received further messages from Nicholson and he began feeling uneasy and forwarded one of the text messages to a friend for his opinion.

"A few days later, the boy spoke to Nicholson about speaking language development and asked him for some pointers about it, to which Nicholson responded, 'You can do something to sweeten the deal', to which the boy made a throwaway remark about getting a bag of sweets.

"Nicholson then asked to see the boy on his own away from his home. It was at this point the boy realised that things were taking a turn for the worse. He felt strange and anticipated what was coming next, because he had seen this scenario in television dramas.

"The boy then got the courage to start saying 'no' to Nicholson, who sent another text, 'I want to see you without your top on' to which the boy said 'no' again.

"The boy then approached his mother to tell her about what was going on with his home tutor." 

The boy's family contacted the school, and the school contacted the police within an hour. The school removed Nicholson the following morning. 

Judge Ian Lawrie KC commented: "The actions of Nicholson were an act of manipulation on many aspects. He was a teacher who behaved in a totally inappropriate way out of school. His brief teaching career is now at an end. He would have known from his training and life experiences in general, that his actions are not acceptable.

"Additionally, I know Gore Vidal's book that was referred to, which was published in 1948. It was ahead of its time, but I question its validity in this day and age. As I recall, It's not pornographic, but a journey of emotional torture.

"Why did Nicholson choose this book for the boy to read? Was there a hidden message? I feel the underlying message was an element of careful manipulation into the subject."

Ross McQuillan-Johnson, defending, said that Nicholson's career as a teacher has ceased and his current employment is also at risk, as it depended on the sentence he receives. He said Nicholson faces the possibility of further disciplinary proceedings.

Nicholson, of Fairway, Calne, Wiltshire, told the judge from the dock: "I spent the last year feeling broken. I've struggled with what I've done and have tried to rectify this with counselling for much of the past year. I've spent a lot of time waiting on the Crown Prosecution Service's charging decision.

"I now have a better understanding of things and have been able to talk to counsellors about my own issues. I've been helping others with their problems before facing up to my own mental issues.

"The sessions have enabled me to deal with my own grief and create stronger relationships. However, the biggest worry for me has been the prospect of being sent to prison. I went into teaching later in life because I wanted to wait until I was ready. I felt very good at being employed at the Crypt Grammar School."

Nicholson pleaded guilty to intentionally communicating with a boy under the age of 16 in a sexual manner, namely requesting a topless picture of the boy and making reference to masturbation.

Judge Lawrie told Nicholson: "Your public humiliation is extreme and complete. No doubt this sentencing will be reported in the media. Your teaching career, which you obviously spent time qualifying for, is now over.

"You committed a series of offences which breached the trust that the boy's parents had shown you. Two things concern me about your case. You sent that book, The City and the Pillar to your victim and I feel there was a hidden sexual motive to your actions. This causes me some concerns and makes your offending cross the custody threshold.

"However, the guidelines for this would only result in a short prison sentence, while your mitigation places you within a community-based sentence. This is both a punishment and the chance of learning your lesson."

The judge sentenced Nicholson to a 36-month community order, which includes 200 hours of unpaid work, 40 rehabilitation activity requirement days, 30 programme sessions and a monthly judicial review. He ordered that Nicholson pay a contribution towards court costs of £425 and a mandatory surcharge of £90.

The judge placed Nicholson on the sex offenders register for five years and made him subject to a sexual harm prevention order for the same time period.

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