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Update: headteacher Andrew Howard found not guilty in fondling trial
A BASINGSTOKE headteacher has been acquitted of fondling a teenage boy.
The jury at Winchester Crown Court took just 50 minutes this morning to acquit Andrew Howard, the suspended headteacher of Velmead Junior School, in Fleet, 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, while his supporters, including Sue Runciman, acting head at Velmead Junior School, 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 told the court he made a complaint to the police after he said Mr Howard told him he was gay and was attracted to him.
Mr Howard, who never taught the teenager, denied these allegations, and added that part of the teenager’s pattern of behaviour was to “humiliate and punish adults who cross him”.
Mr Howard's friends and family told the jury about his dedication to his job and how seriously he took the responsibility of looking after the children in his care as headteacher.
Katherine Kelleher, defending Mr Howard, told the jury yesterday 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 heard that Mr Howard enjoyed a “stratospheric” rise since he started his career at Beech Down Primary School, in Brighton Hill, Basingstoke, in 1990.
The jury retired to consider its verdict at 10.10am this morning, and returned its not guilty verdict at 11am.
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