A British teachers’ union representative has come under fire after claiming that teachers who engage in consensual sex with students over the age of 16 should not be prosecuted, the U.K.’s Daily Mail reported Sunday.
Chris Keates, the general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said in an interview to be broadcast in the U.K. on Monday that teachers who have sex with pupils over the age of consent are guilty of a mere “error in professional judgment,” and should not be placed on the sex offenders register, the Mail reported.
“There is a real anomaly in the law that we are concerned about,” the Mail quoted Keates as saying. “That is that if a teacher has a relationship with a pupil at the school at which they teach—it could be an 18-year-old pupil—then that teacher can be prosecuted and can end up on the sex offenders register.”
But upon learning of her comments, child protection parenting experts expressed horror and outrage, the Mail reported.
“Teachers who take advantage of a young boy or girl in their care should certainly face dismissal and prosecution … if there is no penalty what is there to stop teachers taking advantage of children and young people?” Lynette Burrows, an author on parenting and children’s rights told the Mail.
Although British laws strictly prohibit teachers from having affairs with students under the age of 18, a university study published in 2005 estimated that as many as 1,500 intimate relationships develop each year, the Mail said.