A TEACHER at a Kent secondary school who was jailed for sending obscene messages to two 16-year-old girls has walked free from prison after top judges quashed his sentence.
Joseph Matthew Cornwall, 29, of Forewood Rise, Crowhurst, was jailed for 16 months in February after admitting three counts of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity at Maidstone Crown Court.
But he was freed this week after appeal judges Lord Justice Davis, Mr Justice Beatson and Judge Peter Collier QC said the sentence was “manifestly excessive” and cut it to four months.
His barrister, Crispian Cartwright, said Cornwall accepted that sending the “idiotic” messages was “utterly unprofessional and wholly reprehensible”.
The court heard Cornwall, a recently qualified PE teacher, contacted one girl via Facebook and then by mobile phone, talking about all manner of sexual activities he wanted to engage in with her.
Another, who had initiated contact with him via Facebook, also received a string of sordid, sexually-charged messages, describing sex acts.
One of the girls told a friend, who passed the information to a teacher and police became involved, leading to Cornwall’s prosecution for the crimes.
After assessing him prior to his sentencing, a probation officer said the teacher was a “medium” risk of causing harm to others, but recommended a community order.
But sentencing him, Judge Charles Macdonald QC said Cornwall seemed to have some kind of “compulsion” to send explicit messages to others.
Challenging the length of the prison term, Mr Cartwright argued that 16 months was “manifestly excessive”.
The fact that Cornwall has now lost his career should have been taken into account, he said.
“This was inciting only and no sexual activity took place,” Judge Collier told the Court of Appeal.
“The appropriate sentence in this case, after a trial, would have been no more than six months and, giving the appellant full credit for his early guilty plea, that would reduce the sentence to one of four months.”
As Cornwall would only serve half of his sentence before release on licence and has already been in prison for three months, the decision meant he could go free immediately.