Basingstoke headteacher Andrew Howard waiting to hear if he can return to work after being acquitted of fondling teenage boy (From Basingstoke Gazette)
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Basingstoke headteacher Andrew Howard waiting to hear if he can return to work after being acquitted of fondling teenage boy
A BASINGSTOKE headteacher is waiting to hear if he can go back to work after being acquitted of fondling a teenage boy.
As reported last Thursday, a jury at Winchester Crown Court took just 50 minutes to acquit Andrew Howard who had denied two counts of sexual activity with a child under the age of 16.
Mr Howard, 46, of Mulberry Way, Chineham, smiled as the verdict was read out. His supporters, including Sue Runciman, who has been acting head at Velmead Junior School, in Fleet, since Mr Howard was suspended after being charged, expressed their happiness at the jury’s decision.
Judge Andrew Barnett told Mr Howard: “You are acquitted of these two charges, and you can leave this court without a stain on your character.”
The six-day trial at Winchester Crown Court had heard allegations that Mr Howard had sexually touched the teenager in houses and in Mr Howard’s car.
The teenager, who was not a pupil at any of the schools where Mr Howard has taught, told the court he made a complaint to the police after he said Mr Howard had told him he was gay and was attracted to him.
Mr Howard denied the touching ever took place, and said that part of the teenager’s pattern of behaviour was to “humiliate and punish adults who cross him”.
His friends and family told the jury about Mr Howard’s dedi-cation to his job and how seriously he took the responsibility of looking after the children in his care as headteacher.
Summing up for the defence, Katherine Kelleher told the trial that Mr Howard was not on trial for his homosexuality.
She told the jurors: “What I suggest should be your common-sense conclusion is that it has been used against him to bring a great man down by a very disturbed young man.”
The trial had heard that Mr Howard enjoyed a “stratospheric” rise since he started his career at Beech Down Primary School, in Brighton Hill, Basingstoke, in 1990.
Following Mr Howard’s acquittal, a Hampshire County Council spokesman said: “In accordance with the procedures where an employee facing such charges is found not guilty, it is necessary for the governing body and the local authority to review the situation before making a decision about whether a return to work is appropriate. This process is likely to take a few weeks.”
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