Page last updated at 21:40 GMT, Monday, 7 December 2009

Teacher guilty of grooming pupil

A teacher at a girls' school has been convicted of sexually grooming a pupil who had developed a crush on him.

John Cope, 44, exchanged flirty text messages and chatted on the phone with the teenager while working at the private Brighton and Hove High School.

The IT supply teacher was sacked from the school after his arrest in May last year, Lewes Crown Court heard.

Cope, of Stow Road, Ixworth, Suffolk, was banned from working with children and will be sentenced on 8 January.

The teacher, who was employed through an agency, was cleared of two counts of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity between January and May 2008.

'Abuse of trust'

Jurors heard that Cope gave the girl his mobile phone number and encourage the exchanges after she told him she "fancied someone she shouldn't", and he guessed she meant him.

Topics of conversation, via phone and online, between the teacher and his pupil included oral sex, flavoured condoms, and the loss of Cope's virginity at the age of 15.

Jonathan Davies, prosecuting, said Cope formed a friendship with the girl which he intended to lead to sexual activity between them and had abused the trust placed in him.

The jury heard the relationship never became sexual because the girl's mother read one of the Cope's text messages as her daughter slept, worked out it was from a teacher and got the police involved.

Cope told the court he only wanted to help the teenager through a troubled phase and denied planning to groom her as a future sexual partner.

He said he should have cut contact with the girl sooner but could not explain why he sent her suggestive messages.

The supply teacher, who had an IT degree from Anglia Polytechnic University and an MBA from the University of Brighton, was sacked from the school after he was arrested on 20 May 2008.

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