Published: 00:01, 07 July 2014
A former choirmaster at Rochester Cathedral has been jailed for three years for having unlawful sex with a 14-year-old girl.
Schoolteacher Sam Rathbone, 28, was remanded in custody after he continued to see the girl secretly following his arrest for the offences.
“It gives an insight into your determination and misguided attitude to this so-called relationship,” a judge told him.
Maidstone Crown Court heard Rathbone was 26 and assistant director of music at the cathedral when he started having sex with the girl.
Prosecutor Alexia Zimbler said the teenager developed a crush on Rathbone and was flattered by his advances.
She sent a friend a message with a picture of a box of condoms saying: “tonight.”
But she later texted the friend telling her they had intercourse without any protection.
She said: “Neither of us had any condoms but we still did it.”
She told the pal not to tell anybody because she did not want people to “think he is a perv”.
During the relationship Rathbone took up a teaching post at a Gravesend school.
Miss Zimbler said the girl’s friends reported their concerns to the authorities when she started to say she and Rathbone were in love.
She at first claimed she had made it all up to show off, but eventually made admissions. She added the relationship became sexual at her request.
Rathbone, an organist who has played recitals at Westminster Abbey, said they had intercourse on four occasions.
The prosecutor said of the girl's police interview: "There was no doubt she felt she was in a serious relationship with him. He felt the same."
He was released on bail but earlier this year it was revealed he had set up a fake Facebook page so that he could contact the girl. Her mother also expressed concerns about continuing contact.
He was then remanded to Elmley Prison, Sheppey, without being on a segregated wing.
Rathbone, formerly of The Precinct, Rochester, admitted four offences of sexual activity with a child.
Antonie Muller, defending, said the reality was that Rathbone was not interested in young girls but became interested in the teenager “as a person in her own right who just happened to be underage and for whom he had genuine feelings”.
He continued: “It is not a heady pursuit of this young girl. It was not a headlong plunge into sex. It had gone too far.
“He got a teaching job in September - just in time to throw it away once he was caught. He was on a course of disaster.”
Rathbone had spent the equivalent of a seven-month sentence in custody.
“He has seen prison life - shocking to anybody, particularly the sensitive soul he is,” said Mr Muller.
“It is the clang of the prison gates in extremis.
“He has lost his vocational job he loved. His punishment will be very long standing indeed.”
Mr Muller said: "Two months from now she will be 16. Everything they did will be legal."
Judge Jeremy Carey told him such a crush by a girl should have been discouraged without any equivocation.
“Instead of which you encouraged it because it was agreeable and you liked the idea of having sex with her,” he said. “That’s precisely what you did.
“She was pleased you loved her and it doesn’t make an iota of difference from your point of view, because that is what young girls do.”
Judge Carey continued: “This is a serious case. You persisted in wanting contact with her after everything had come to light.
“I am told the salutary effect of being in Elmley Prison has caused you to reflect on your wrongdoing. Only time will tell.
“No condom was used. I shudder to think what might have happened and the long-term effect on a child.”
The judge spoke of the impact on Rathbone’s life and those who loved and cared for him.
“You have lost everything,” he continued. “It will take a good deal of time to re-establish a career, as well as your good name.
“You have lost everything. It will take a good deal of time to re-establish a career, as well as your good name" - Judge Carey
“I am asked to take an exceptional course and pass a sentence which does not deprive you further of your liberty.
"While I firmly believe in constructive sentencing there are limits and that submission is well beyond the limit this case would justify.”
Rathbone's name will appear on the sex offenders’ register, a sexual offences prevention order was made and he will be barred from working with children.
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