Teacher cleared of rape too late

21st April 2006 at 01:00
Darryl Gee, falsely accused by a pupil, died in his cell after 18 months in jail

A teacher who died in prison after being convicted of raping one of his pupils has been posthumously cleared by the Court of Appeal.

Darryl Gee was jailed in 2001 despite scant evidence to corroborate his accuser's claims, which related to alleged incidents more than a decade earlier.

The music teacher, who protested his innocence, died in his cell from an undiagnosed blood cancer. He had served 18 months of an eight-year sentence.

This week, campaigners described the case as one of the worst miscarriages of justice they had seen after the Court of Appeal in London quashed his conviction.

It comes as government guidance designed to speed up investigations into alleged abuse of pupils is introduced in schools. Unions say this will reduce the risk of innocent teachers being smeared by false allegations.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "This is an extreme and tragic illustration of the consequences of malicious allegations and underlines the need for these new procedures."

Mr Gee's 88-year-old mother, Molly, awarded pound;62,493 costs by the court, said the case should be a warning to other teachers.

"It all boiled down to one girl's word against his, and the jury believed her," she said. "That's all it took to send my son to prison and it has left me very angry and grief stricken. I don't think anyone should have to work alone with a child - it is just too easy for an allegation like this to be made."

Mr Gee, a supply teacher who taught brass instruments, was found guilty at Leeds crown court in January 2001 after being accused of raping and indecently assaulting a pupil in a Huddersfield school in 1989. He died aged 55 in August 2002, a month after a second appeal failed.

His conviction was eventually quashed when his mother alerted the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which asked a leading psychiatrist to report on his accuser. The study cast doubt on her mental state. It also emerged that the girl, now 26, made similar allegations against another man, whose conviction was quashed earlier this year.

Lady Justice Smith, the appeal court judge, overturned Mr Gee's conviction, saying that since the original trial the alleged victim's account of the abuse had become "more florid". She said the alleged victim made no mention of being abused by Mr Gee in recent statements. The judge added that expert psychiatrists believed the girl's claims were "unreliable".

She also said if it had been known at Mr Gee's original trial that the other man would be acquitted, the chances of attacking his accuser's credibility would have "immeasurably" improved.

Gail Saunders, of the campaign group Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers, said: "It is an appalling example of the extraordinary difficulties faced by individuals who are accused of abuse many years after the alleged offence."

Features 30-31

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