‘Manipulative’ Scots art teacher who preyed on young pupils faces jail

A “manipulative” art teacher who subjected female pupils and former students to a string of indecent and sexual assaults is facing jail.

James Skelton Smith outside Dundee Sheriff Court. Picture: Tim Bugler

James Skelton Smith, a surrealist artist whose work has sold at Christie’s and a part-time teacher for expressive art at a leading Scottish state school for 25 years, preyed on female pupils and ex-pupils of the 1,200-pupil academy, which cannot be named for legal reasons.

Smith, 57, would regularly drop his pencil in order to crawl under second and third-year girls’ desks in class and look up their skirts and bombarded one pupil with gifts and attention throughout her sixth year until she dropped out to avoid him.

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On her last day at school, when she was 17, he followed her into the street and gave her a “quite sexual” French kiss. Then when she returned to hand in work for her final exams he kissed her again and groped her breast in an empty classroom.

Dundee Sheriff Court heard Smith touched one 14-year-old pupil’s inside thigh, inches below her groin, left a 15-year-old pupil feeling “really violated” after touching her upper thigh with the palm of his hand, and went into an arts cupboard with another teenage pupil and put his hands on her bottom to push her up on to a stool to get painting items from a high shelf.

He also targeted female pupils after they had left school, inviting one woman he used to teach back to his home to look at his paintings and then subjecting her to sexual assaults in his own bedroom and in his daughter’s bedroom, leaving her so scared she decided to “play dead” rather than return his attentions or say no.

After a three-day summary trial, Smith, of Nelson Terrace, Dundee, was found guilty of indecent assault, sexual assault, and breach of the peace. The offences took place over an 11-year period between 2008 and 2019.

Sheriff John Rafferty deferred sentence until 7 November for background reports and ordered Smith’s name should be placed on the sex offenders’ register.

He told Smith: “I found the Crown witnesses to be credible and reliable, in the main exceedingly impressive witnesses, and in some instances courageous witnesses.

“The case against you is compelling.”

Smith showed no emotion as the verdict was announced.

The court heard he had been suspended from the school for nine months, and would now lose his job. Smith denied all the alleged encounters.