Teacher sentenced for student sex assault
A FORMER Melbourne high school music teacher who said she was lonely and depressed when she pounced on a 15-year-old student in her car, kissing him then touching his genitals, has been spared an immediate jail term.
Caroline McDougall, who was 34 at the time and is now 61, sexually assaulted the boy in her car in 1992.
McDougall, now a successful counsellor with her own business, was sentenced in the County Court on Wednesday to eight months' jail, wholly suspended.
McDougall was charged in 2016 with more than a dozen offences against the boy.
She pleaded guilty to one count of an indecent act with a child under 16.
The court previously heard she was a music teacher at Deer Park Secondary College in Melbourne's west at the time of the incident.
She said they bonded when he confided in her that he had been abused by another female teacher at the school, the Herald Sun reported.
McDougall later said she had regarded the boy as "sexual beyond his years".
"He was such an impressive person … he seemed like an adult," she said.
The boy reported the attack to his parents who went to authorities at the time. McDougall reportedly then left her job on compassionate leave.
The Victorian County Court heard McDougall didn't teach again after the allegations first surfaced in the early 1990s.
Her lawyer, David Sexton, said rather than being a sexual predator, McDougall had made a "catastrophic error of judgment" and has spent 26 years since the offending with a sense of "shame, remorse and self-loathing".
It comes just three months after an Adelaide private school teacher who groomed one of her male students for sex in similar circumstances also faced court for sentencing.
In the South Australian District Court in April, Bettina Schmoock was jailed for 22 months with a non-parole period of 11 months.
However both terms were suspended with the 42-year-old placed on a three-year good behaviour bond.
In sentencing submissions the court was told while no sexual activity ever took place, Schmoock had booked a cottage for an encounter with the boy and that her actions could not be considered "mere fantasy".
In texts released by the District Court, the former Concordia College teacher appeared to counsel the boy who, the court heard, feared he would die a virgin.
"Masturbation is a completely normal and healthy part of one's life," she wrote in one of the earliest messages.
"I even thought of telling you to sleep with someone as it helps to get rid of aggro and tension, but then I realised you had probably not slept with anybody.
"You should not do it with a young, unexperienced girl, because she might need you to make love to her, not have sex."
It was from there that Schmoock threw even more caution to the wind.
"I'm yours in every which way, you can count on me," she told him over the internet.
"I will teach you, body and soul, best I can.
"I told you I will be your friend, online at the moment and in secret if you need me physically."
The court heard the boy tried to end communication with Schmoock, but that only appeared to inflame the situation.
"I loved you from the bottom of my heart and you pushed me away … I'm so sorry I'm not 20 and single … believe me, I'm actually quite busy and desirable," she told him.
"There's two ways this can go. 1) Nowhere. 2) Everywhere. You just need to keep your mouth shut."
The boy then told his parents, the school and police - and Schmoock was arrested.
Defence counsel said she had been affected by a four-month-long hypomanic episode, as part of her undiagnosed bipolar disorder, at the time of the offending.
In sentencing, Judge Gordon Barrett said he took into account Schmoock's mental health at the time and that she was unlikely to be able to teach again. He said he also gave some weight to the apprehension and anxiety caused by her possible deportation with the mother-of-two not being an Australian citizen.
In a victim impact statement read to the court, the boy said his contact with Schmoock was initially comforting and described her as his best friend. But he said their relationship became too toxic to maintain, leaving him feeling trapped and alone.
Schmoock had earlier pleaded guilty to one aggravated count of communicating with the intent of procuring a child for sexual activity.