Karen Louise Ellis

Posted: October 29, 2012 by Serendipity in Location, Photo, Victoria
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Appeal fails in teacher sex case

September 9, 2005 – 1:00PM

Former Melbourne physical education teacher Karen Louise Ellis today failed in her bid to reduce her jail term imposed for having sex with a teenage schoolboy.

The 37-year-old pleaded guilty at her trial to six charges of sexual penetration with a child under 16 after having a six-and-a-half week affair with the Year 10 student in 2003.

In November last year, County Court Judge John Smallwood sentenced her to 22 months imprisonment, wholly suspended for three years.

After an appeal by the DPP six months later, Court of Appeal Justice Frank Callaway resentenced Ellis to two years and eight months’ jail, with six months to be served immediately and the remainder suspended.

“The sentence unintentionally violated the rule of equality before the law, including equality of concern for male and female victims and equality in the sentencing of male and female offenders,” Justice Callaway said.

In the High Court in Melbourne today, Ellis’ barrister Robert Richter QC argued Justice Callaway wrongly assumed Ellis received favourable treatment because she was a woman and he had failed to take into account the exceptional circumstances surrounding the case.

He said the victim was just four months shy of his 16th birthday when the offences occurred and did not feel victimised.

The victim did not testify during the trial but gave a written statement, in which he said he initiated the relationship, not Ellis.

“The victim wants to give evidence. He wants to give evidence saying `I am not the victim, she is’,” Mr Richter said.

“The conviction is absolutely devastating for this woman. She has lost her career, she has lost her future.”

Crown prosecutor John McArdle QC said the law was designed to treat male and female offenders equally.

“The legislation is not gender specific either as an offender or a victim.” he said.

“The whole purpose of this law is to protect male or female children.”

Mr McArdle said the affair had devastated the victim’s family and would have long-lasting ramifications.

“Sexual relationships of this abusive nature have effects much later on in life,” he said.

High Court justices Michael Kirby, Ken Hayne and Ian Callinan rejected Ellis’ application for leave to appeal the sentence imposed by the Court of Appeal.

“It does seem to be an offensive principle that a female teacher in these circumstances is treated more leniently than a male teacher would be,” Justice Kirby said.

“It is unlikely that the Court of Appeal gave no consideration of the discretions available to the sentencing judge.

“We are not convinced that a miscarriage of justice occurred in this case.”



Teacher who had sex with student avoids jail

November 11, 2004

A woman teacher avoided a jail term yesterday after pleading guilty to a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy.

As she left the Victorian County Court, Karen Louise Ellis, a 37-year-old mother of three, said: “I got exactly what I deserved.”

Ellis had earlier pleaded guilty to six counts of sexual penetration with a boy under 16.

Judge John Smallwood sentenced her to 22 months in jail but wholly suspended the term for three years.

The former Melbourne physical education teacher had repeated sex with the boy at her North Eltham home while her husband was away in October and November last year.

The boy’s mother contacted police after seeing Ellis and her son “looking like husband and wife” as they left their school in the teacher’s car.

Judge Smallwood said the case against Ellis was “greatly different” to the recent case concerning high-profile tennis coach Gavin Hopper, who in August was jailed for more than two years for his affair with an underage schoolgirl in the 1980s.

Indeed, the Crown had not suggested the circumstances surrounding the two cases were similar nor that any comparison should be made, he said.

Hopper’s relationship with his victim began when she was 14 and stretched over two years.

Hopper denied the charges from the outset and at the trial, the victim was called “either a liar or mad or both”.

The trial judge found Hopper had shown no remorse and the victim had suffered greatly.

“Those factors do not exist in this particular situation to anything like the extent they occurred in Hopper and it’s my view that in circumstances such as these comparisons are very dangerous,” he said.

Declaring a degree of mercy appropriate, he told Ellis: “The fallout from your criminal conduct has been enormous.”

She would never teach again, her reputation had been destroyed and she had been subjected to public ridicule.

She was now regarded as a serious sexual offender and her name would go on the sexual offenders’ register.

But a victims-of-crime lobby group said the decision not to jail Ellis was a disgrace and revealed gender bias in the justice system.

The president of the Crime Victims Association, Noel McNamara, said: “It appears we have one law for one gender and one law for another gender according to the justice system.

It was “pretty disgusting” there was such a disparity in two sentences handed down from the bench, and the decision sent the wrong message to victims. “I feel for the boy and his mother,” he said. “She has to be concerned that it appears justice is different for her because it was a boy.”

The president of the Australian Council of State School Organisations, 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.”


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