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‘Creepy’ art teacher who sexually assaulted pupils jailed

James Skelton Smith was sentenced to eight months and put on a sex offenders' registered.

James Skelton Smith has been jailed. Central Scotland News

A “creepy” art teacher who indecently or sexually assaulted pupils has been jailed for eight months.

James Skelton Smith’s conduct was labelled “abhorrent” by a sheriff at Dundee Sheriff Court.

Smith, 57, a part-time teacher of expressive arts at a Scottish state school, would regularly drop his pencil in order to crawl under second and third-year girls’ desks.

He bombarded one older pupil with gifts and attention until she finally dropped out to avoid him.

On her last day at school he followed the 17-year-old into the street and gave her a “quite sexual” French kiss and when she handed in work for her final exams he kissed her again and groped her breast in an empty classroom.

Sheriff John Rafferty said: “These assaults were carried out when you were in a position of authority and trust.

“You contrived situations to get down on the floor of the classroom and in some instances crawl under the desks and look up the skirts of schoolgirls.

“One of the pupils had mental health issues. She suffered from anxiety and this was known to you. You sought her out, befriended her, contacted her on social media, and gave her gifts before indecently assaulting her.”

The court heard Smith, who pupils described as “creepy”, touched one 14-year-old girl’s inside thigh and left a 15-year-old feeling “really violated” after touching her upper thigh with the palm of his hand

He went into an arts cupboard with another teenage pupil and put his hands on her bottom to push her up onto a stool to reach painting items from a high shelf.

Smith also targeted female pupils after they had left school and invited a 22-year-old woman back home to look at his paintings and grabbed her breasts.

The sexual assault left her so scared she decided to “play dead” rather than return his attentions or say no.

After a three-day trial in October, Smith, of Dundee, was found guilty of indecent assault, sexual assault, and breach of the peace.

The offences took place over an 11-year period between 2008 and 2019.

Sentence had been deferred until Thursday for reports.

Smith, a Scottish surrealist artist, denied all the charges and claimed his victim’s stories were “ridiculous”.

Sheriff Rafferty rejected a defence submission that he could be spared jail.

The teacher showed no emotion as the sheriff said his victims had “shown courage” in coming forward “out of a selfless sense of public duty”.

Smith, he said, had forfeited any right to any reduction in his sentence, despite being a first offender.

“It’s the clear duty of the courts to protect the young and vulnerable and a custodial sentence is required to afford that protection.

“Each of your victims – some of whom are still schoolchildren – were required to give evidence and each faced allegations that they were lying.

“You have shown no or little remorse and little understanding of the impact on your victims.

“It has to be hoped that they may now gain some closure.

“In addition to the eight-month jail term, he ordered Smith, who has now lost his job as a teacher, to be placed on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.

The former pupil whom Smith gave a “French kiss” the day she left school said it had taken seven years for her to make an initial approach to police.

Now 28, she said she had felt “really ashamed” and “tried to bury the excruciating details” of what Smith — whom she called a “guardian figure” — had done to her.

The former pupil, described how, she had been “really into art”, and had enjoyed being invited back to his “old period house” with an easel in the “long leafy garden”.

But he then attacked her, getting into bed beside her, pushing his crotch into her back and gripping her breasts “firmly”.

She said: “I was very, very afraid.”

The court heard Smith, a teacher for 25 years at the 1200-pupil school, which cannot be named for legal reasons, would never he allowed to teach again.

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