Group disgusted by teacher's sentence

November 10, 2004 - 1:00PM

A judge's decision not to jail a female teacher who had sex with a 15-year-old boy was a disgrace and revealed gender bias in the justice system, a victims of crime lobby said today.

Mother-of-three Karen Louise Ellis was today sentenced to 22 months' jail, wholly suspended for three years, meaning she will not spend any time behind bars unless she commits another offence in that time.

Ellis, who is married, had earlier admitted to having a sexual relationship with the boy, and pleaded guilty to six counts of sexual penetration with a child under 16.

Her sentence comes just three months after tennis coach Gavin Hopper was sentenced to a maximum of three and a half years in jail for a three-year relationship with a 14-year-old girl while he was a physical education teacher.

Crime Victims Association president Noel McNamara today labelled Ellis' sentence a disgrace.

"It appears we have one law for one gender and one law for another gender according to the justice system," he said.

"It's pretty disgusting that there is such a disparity in two sentences handed down from the bench."

He said the decision sent the wrong message to victims.

"I feel for the boy and his mother," he said.

"What do you say to her? She has to be concerned that it appears justice is different for her because it was a boy."

Meanwhile, Australian Council of State School Organisations president Judith Bundy said there needed to be consistency in sentencing.

"I think it will be a concern for parents," Ms Bundy said.

"It's a very difficult issue and people get very emotional."

She said it was difficult to understand the variation in sentences.

"It probably does need to be reviewed and there needs to be some consistency," she said.

"You do have to wonder why outcomes are different, but then you have to trust the judicial process."