A man who abused his position as a music teacher to groom teenage girls has been jailed for 17 years.
Ben Breakwell, 40, coaxed girls aged 13 and 14 into illicit relationships, arranging secret meetings in his flat and the basement of the school where he worked.
He had sexual relationships with two pupils between 2014 and 2017 and kissed a third on the lips at the end of a lesson. His crimes came to light after a victim’s mother confronted him.
The professional tenor singer, who took up teaching at a west London secondary school, was jailed at Isleworth Crown Court on Thursday after he was found guilty of a catalogue of 32 sexual offences in August.
Investigating officer Det Supt Ben Lawrence-Smith described Breakwell as a “sexual predator” and praised his victims for coming forward.
One, who was 14 at the time, described how Breakwell took advantage of a “naïve” girl.
“I was quite frozen,” she said about the first time they had sex. “I didn’t really know what was happening, none of my friends had had sex before.”
She added: “Afterwards, he said ‘you won’t tell anyone – I feel bad because you won’t be able to tell your friends about it.’
“I said I don’t think I would want to because I was quite embarrassed. I had sex and I was 14 – it wasn’t really something I thought would happen.”
Senior CPS prosecutor Kate Shilton said Breakwell “violated” his victims when he “should have protected them” as a teacher.
She added: “He convinced these victims who were just 13 and 14 at the time, that they were together, special to him and in love with one another. In fact, he was manipulative, and he used his position of trust to groom and exploit these young girls.
“Breakwell has never taken responsibility for his actions and throughout the trial denied any sexual activity took place with the victims.”
In court, he refused to admit his guilt and tried to convince the jury he was the victim of a smear campaign.
But when police scoured Breakwell’s phones and computers, they found he had researched countries that do not have an extradition treaty with the UK, as well as possible future careers for teachers who have convictions for underage sex.
On one occasion a victim told Breakwell: “This is so illegal.” He replied: “I know.”
Breakwell was sacked by the school he worked at when the allegations first came to light. A spokesperson said the school was “absolutely appalled” by his crimes.
Breakwell – who moved to Monkgate, York, after the allegations surfaced – denied but was convicted of 21 charges of sexual activity with a child, three counts of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, four charges of sexual activity with a child by a person in a position of trust, a count of sexual assault, and two allegations of taking indecent photographs of a child.
He must serve at least two thirds of his sentence and will be subject to a lifelong sexual harm prevention order.