A school principal who had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student is challenging claims he abused the girl when under his supervision because he had resigned before their affair began, a court has heard.
The former principal at one stage allegedly suggested giving the girl sleeping pills to use to drug her parents so she would be able to leave the house at night to be with him.
He also allegedly organised for a ladder to help the girl climb over the fence at her parents’ house to meet up with him.
The Court of Appeal’s president Justice Chris Maxwell and Justices Pamela Tate and David Beach said they had been asked for guidance by a County Court judge over the case before it went to trial.
The principal has pleaded not guilty to 17 counts of sexual penetration of a 17-year-old girl under his care, supervision or authority, and five counts of committing an indecent act with a 17-year-old girl under his care, supervision or authority.
He was arguing that what he did ‘‘may well have been morally reprehensible and professionally forbidden’’, but it was not a crime.
In an appeal judgment handed down on Wednesday, Justice Tate said the case involved the issue of a school principal who had engaged in sexual activity with a Year 11 student after he had resigned and whether she had been under his care at the time.
The judge said an inappropriate relationship, but not a sexual one, had developed in 2012 between the principal and the 17-year-old student.
The principal was suspended on December 8, 2012, but he continued to communicate with the schoolgirl via text messages which became sexual.
The pair continued to communicate via email and text messages, even when the girl travelled overseas with her family between December 2012 and late January last year.
The principal resigned on January 22 last year and, according to police, began a three-month sexual relationship with the girl between February 9 and May 2.
Justice Tate said the Crown had alleged:
*the former principal, just days after his resignation, asked the girl not attend a school camp because his wife and children were away and he wanted her to spend time with him at his house.
*there was ‘‘an inherent power imbalance’’ between the former principal and the schoolgirl given his former position and that had affected her actions and ability to consent freely to his sexual advances.
*the former principal constantly initiated the contact between them.
*the former principal encouraged the girl to keep their relationship a secret from her support network including from her student/teacher mentor; her parents; her close friends; and the school community in general, including asking the girl to write a letter to the new acting principal saying his predecessor had not been ‘‘grooming’’ her.
* an intervention order had been taken out against the former principal but he organised for a ladder to be used to help the girl climb over the fence at her parents’ house to meet him.
* after the sexual relationship began, the former principal would collect the girl from school during school hours.
* the former principal suggested during April last year that he could provide the girl with sleeping pills to drug her parents so she could leave the house at night to spend time with him.
* The former principal insisted that the girl remain in the sexual relationship with him, despite her repeated attempts to end it.
* The former principal engaged in a covert relationship knowing from when he had been the principal that the girl suffered from an ‘‘attachment disorder’’.
The appeal judges said the value of the evidence proposed to be led about a former relationship between the principal and student should be assessed by the trial judge; and it would be up to the Crown to prove that the girl was under the former principal’s care at the time.