Outcry in Falkirk Sheriff Court as sex offender high school teacher is handed community service

Members of the public who heard the sentence handed out to former Larbert High School teacher James Connal branded him a “beast” as they left Falkirk Sheriff Court.
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They commented they could not believe the 31-year-old had not been sent to prison for his offences.

Appearing at the court on Thursday, Connal had been convicted of indecent communication and causing a 15-year-old girl to look at sexual images via Snapchat back in 2021.

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During the trial earlier this year it was stated the former teacher, who comes from Hallglen, sent the girl sexual Snapchat messages and seedy photos and attempted to entice her to go to a hotel with him.

James Connal was sentenced at Falkirk Sheriff Court. Pic: Tim BuglerJames Connal was sentenced at Falkirk Sheriff Court. Pic: Tim Bugler
James Connal was sentenced at Falkirk Sheriff Court. Pic: Tim Bugler

Connal began grooming the girl while giving her private tuition.

At the time the jury heard his contacts with the girl "started out innocently enough but within a couple of weeks had developed into something that was anything but innocent".

He would text her throughout the day – including during school hours, while he worked as a maths teacher at Larbert High – telling her she was "pretty", that he "looked forward to seeing her", and then asked her to go away with him and stay in a hotel in Edinburgh with him.

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He added her on Snapchat and sent her selfies of himself topless and with his hand down his trousers, messaged asking if she “wanted to see something hard”, and texted to ask if he could put his hand down her top.

She said in evidence he had tried to kiss her on two occasions when he turned up for maths lessons, and he had also told her to delete some of the messages he had sent.

Connal had been tutoring the girl, now 18, for about two months in 2021, when her mother spotted on her daughter's phone some of what Connal had been sending, and cancelled the lesson scheduled that day before calling the police.

Some of the images Connal send the girl had been taken in his classroom at Larbert High School, and showed his "distinctive tattoos".

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The court heard that because the Snapchat app only transmits new photos just taken, the "obvious conclusion" was that some of them had been sent "live" from the school.

After a two day trial, jurors took less than 15 minutes to find Connal guilty by majority.

At Thursday’s court it was stated Connal still maintained he was not guilty but his solicitor stated he had “obviously breached a position of trust” where “the victim seemed to have been extremely upset by what happened”.

Addressing Connal, Sheriff Christopher Shead, who had presided over the trial, said: “It will no longer be lost on you these were serious offences.”

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He placed him on a supervised community payback order for three years with a number of conduct and programme requirements attached and ordered him to complete 250 hours of unpaid work within 12 months.

Connal was placed on a restriction of liberty order, meaning he must remain in his home between 7pm and 7am for the next six months.

He was also made subject to the reporting requirements of the sex offenders register.