A maths teacher from a Derbyshire school has been convicted of downloading indecent images of children while employed by the academy.
Neil Barratt - who admitted possessing seven images and 14 movies, including ones from the most extreme category - has been put on a three-year community sex offenders’ programme.
A court heard how the 43-year-old was “visibly shaken” when police arrived to search his home while he was employed at Ecclesbourne School, in Wirksworth Road, Duffield, almost seven months ago.
It was told that, as well as the indecent images - which featured children aged 10 to 14 - officers discovered 31 images of extreme pornography on Barratt’s computer, which was found in a loft room of his house in Rutland Avenue, Matlock.
The school has now sent letters to the parents of pupils who attend the school. They received the letters from the headmaster, James McNamara, who informed them of Barratt’s conviction and subsequent dismissal.
In the letter, Mr McNamara said that Barratt was suspended as soon as the school received information from the police about his arrest. In addition, it stated: “We also want to reassure you that the charges do not relate to Mr Barratt’s work at the school.”
Among parents who received the letter was Rachel McLean, whose son Cameron, 18, attends the school. She said: “When I started reading the letter I thought: ‘Oh my God, this is awful.’ It’s shocking.”
Sentencing Barratt, at Derby Crown Court sitting at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court, Judge Jonathan Gosling said: “Many people who sit in front of a computer in the middle of the night and look at these vile images don’t think they are doing anything wrong. The reason these offences are so serious is because people like you provide the demand.”
He said the children grew up to know that these images could never be deleted and so continued to suffer for years afterwards.
Judge Gosling continued: “It’s more alarming in your case because you were employed as a teacher at the academy and one can only imagine what parents must be thinking – he looks at images and then teaches children, much the same age, the next day.”
But, he said, the school had “carefully examined” Barratt’s position at work and had thankfully found no signs to show he had moved towards abusing children.
In conclusion, Judge Gosling said: “I don’t think you pose a serious risk to any child and properly managed you will be unlikely to reoffend.”
He gave Barratt a three-year community order, with 100 hours of unpaid work.
Barratt, now of St John’s Way, Sandbach, Cheshire, was banned for life from working with children and he must obey a sexual offences prevention order and be on the sex offenders’ register for five years.
Sarah Brown, for Barratt, said: “He is deeply ashamed that he has committed these offences and has tried to reconcile in himself why he behaved in such a way.”
She said a doctor assessing him had concluding that there was probably some link with the depression and anxiety he had been suffering at the time but this was probably not the only factor.
“He knows (that) why he committed these offences has not been answered yet and he is willing to work with services to get to the root cause of why he committed these offences,” said Miss Brown.
“And he is adamant that anything of these matters will not happen again.”
She said that, since being arrested, he had contacted the child sexual abuse prevention campaign Stop It Now! for help and had completed courses.
Mr McNamara said: “We were shocked and saddened when police informed us of their investigation.
“The school immediately suspended the employee and fully supported police officers who worked to thoroughly investigate all aspects of this case.
“We carried out a full internal investigation, held an internal conduct hearing and have now formally terminated employment on the basis of the police investigation.
“We wish to reassure parents none of the charges relate to any of our students, past or present.
“We take every possible care in carrying out detailed pre-employment vetting and criminal record checks, as the safety and well-being of students is our priority.
“The school takes all matters to do with the safeguarding of children extremely seriously and this is reflected in the actions we have taken.