A music teacher who groomed a pupil he had taught for seven years, “dared” her to send him indecent images, and sent her pictures and videos of him performing sex acts on himself has been jailed for 22 months.
Father-of-two Philip Cunningham had the then 14-year-old’s mobile number to arrange lessons and exchanged some 6,000 texts with her, which became increasingly inappropriate.
Northampton Crown Court heard today that as the exchanges escalated, Cunningham gave his victim a thong in a Christmas card and asked her to send him a picture of her wearing it.
The court was also told 40-year-old Cunningham attempted to put some of the blame on his victim, saying she had a “persistent nature”.
In an impact statement, the victim said the ordeal had a “profound psychological effect” on her.
The court was told Cunningham was a self-employed teacher who taught at schools across Northamptonshire, including Northampton.
The matter came to light when a friend of the victim confided in her mother about it, and she told the school.
Michael Magee, prosecuting, said: “The defendant had the victim’s mobile number in order to make contact to organise lessons. The texts became gradually more flirtatious and inappropriate.
“The defendant described a number of ‘dares’ to send a photo of herself naked. At Christmas 2011 he presented her with a card with a thong in it, which he dared her to wear in a lesson, take a picture of her wearing it, and sent it to him.
“He increasingly developed this position of trust and groomed her.”
Simon Hunka, mitigating, said: “This is a very sad set of circumstances for every single person involved in this. He does not seek to blame her.
“He is not in any way what some people may call a predator. He is absolutely not the type of person to be seeking out children to commit offences of this nature.
“He has come to the conclusion that there is something wrong in his mind.”
Sentencing Cunningham, Judge Rupert Mayo said: “Teachers must guard against any relationships becoming inappropriate. There must be a sacred trust and that has been broken.
“Only a sentence of immediate custody can be justified. What you did was manipulate this child so she would do what you asked.
“You know you should have stopped yourself from doing what you did, but you didn’t.”
Speaking to the Chron outside court, the victim’s father said: “As a dad I don’t think you can ever be totally satisfied, but we have to take whatever we can from it.
“I don’t know what could ever appease parents in that situation, but I am satisfied it has been made clear who he is and what he is, and that he has been dealt with.”
Cunningham, of Martinique Meadows, Bletchley will be made to sign the sex offenders’ register, and will remain on it for 10 years.
He admitted charges of making and possessing indecent images of children between October 1, 2011 and January 13, 2012.