Thursday, July 27, 2006

Bridget Mary Nolan

Bridget Mary Nolan (born about 1981) is a former Australian teacher who was convicted in December 2005 of having sexual intercourse with an underage student at her school.

She was a teacher at an unidentified school in the Riverland district of South Australia, where, in July 2005, she had sex with a 15-year-old boy on three occasions over a four week period.

Nolan, from suburban Trott Park in Adelaide, pleaded guilty to the charges when she appeared in court. The court was told of the severe impact of the offence on the victim and his family. The boy had been teased and bullied at school when fellow students learned of his involvement with Nolan, and the family had been subject to intense scrutiny. The court ordered suppression of the names of the victim and his school in order to protect him and his family.

After her initial arrest, Nolan was shifted by the state's education authority to work in a non-student contact situation, but immediately after her guilty plea the South Australian Education Minister announced her dismissal.

At a pre-sentencing hearing in January 2006, further details of the case emerged. Nolan's lawyer said the relationship started with a spontaneous kiss on a bus at a school camp. Nolan later became concerned about the consequences the kiss would have on her career and asked to meet the boy to discuss it. Instead, they had sex after the boy suggested they go into her bedroom. Nolan again tried to discuss the matter some weeks later and again the pair had sex. The lawyer said the sex occurred because Nolan did not want the boy to feel rejected and retaliate by telling authorities.

Nolan's case is one of a number of cases emerging since 2004 involving female teachers in Australia having sex with their students, and reflects a similar spate of such cases in North America and the West generally. Nolan's non-custodial sentence went against the recent trend towards treating female offenders similarly to male offenders in such cases, which had been seen during 2005 particularly in the cases of Sarah Jayne Vercoe and Karen Louise Ellis, both of whom received prison terms which were not suspended - in Ellis's case, on appeal by the Crown against an originally-suspended sentence.

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