A married teacher who was found guilty of child abduction after fleeing to France with a 15-year-old girl has been jailed for five and a half years.

Jeremy Forrest, 30, a former teacher at Bishop Bell C of E in Eastbourne, East Sussex, also pleaded guilty to five additional charges of sexual activity with the child, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

The maths teacher has been banned for life for working with children.

Upon sentencing, the judge told Forrest how his actions had damaged many people.

Judge Michael Lawson QC said: "Your behaviour in this period has been motivated by self-interest and has hurt and damaged many people - her family, your family, staff and pupils at the school and respect for teachers everywhere.

"It has damaged you too but that was something you were prepared to risk. You now have to pay that price.

"It was your duty as a teacher to stop her infatuation not to fuel it."

Outside the court, a woman said on befalf on Forrest that he was "very sorry for his actions".

Forrest was previously described as a paedophile" by the prosecution who said he had groomed a vulnerable teenage girl for sexual purposes.

The schoolgirl had told police that the pair had started a sexual relationship just after her 15th birthday.

Sussex Police said Forrest had grossly abused the trust placed in him as a teacher by starting the relationship with the schoolgirl.

Suspicions were raised about the pair's relationship when they were seen holding hands on a school trip to Los Angeles seven months before they ran away together.

Their disappearance sparked an international manhunt, with Sussex and French police working together to help find them.

Forrest and the pupil boarded a ferry to Calais and from there made their way to Bordeaux in the south. After their images were widely circulated, Forrest was arrested when they were spotted together in the street.

Forrest was extradited back to the UK and charged with child abduction on 10 October.

Forrest, from Ringmer, near Lewes, denied the charge of child abduction but declined to defend himself during the trial at Lewes Crown Court.

In court, as the guilty verdict was read out, the schoolgirl burst out crying. Forrest then turned together and said: "I love you".

She replied "I'm sorry" as he was led away from the court. Forrest's father, Jim, collapsed in court before the verdict was given and was treated by a paramedic before being taken away by ambulance.

Following Forrest's guilty verdict, the mother of the child thanked both Sussex and French police for their work in finding her daughter.

She added: "As a family for the last nine months, it has been like living out your worst nightmare. Every aspect of our lives has been affected to some degree."

Brought disgrace to his profession

Det Chief Insp Mark Ling said: "As a teacher he was in a position of responsibility, authority and trust over the children in his care, which included this 15-year-old vulnerable victim.

"Jeremy Forrest grossly abused the trust placed in him. His actions caused distress and anxiety amongst parents, family members and a school community."

Deputy chief crown prosecutor for CPS South East, Portia Ragnauth, said: "This case was one where a teacher was in a position of authority over a 15-year-old pupil and abducted her, taking her to another country. Not only did he breach the trust and confidence that all the parents at that school had placed in him, he also brought disgrace to his profession, who are trusted to look after the children in their care.

"Forrest lied systematically about his relationship with the girl, repeatedly seeking to assure others, who were concerned about the welfare of his victim that nothing untoward was going on between them.

"None of us can begin to imagine how worried they were about her safety and wellbeing while she was gone for over a week, not knowing where she was or whether she was safe. It's a parent's worst nightmare to have their child abducted and to not know whether they will ever see them again."