Deputy headteacher who watched child sex abuse on dark web banned from teaching

An ex-teacher has been banned from school for life for watching videos of child sexual abuse on the internet.

Former deputy head Richard Swinnerton, 33, was told he would never be allowed to teach again by a panel after it branded his crimes "extremely serious".

Swinnerton resigned from his post at St Clare's primary school in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, in May 2020 after it was discovered he had been watching the clips on the dark web in the home he shared with his unsuspecting wife and child for around 12 months.

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He was arrested during a raid on his home by officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA) and confessed to his offences, pointing to his laptop and declaring: "It's me, I have been looking at the indecent images."

In 2020, after pleading guilty at Teesside Crown Court to possessing 95 indecent images of children, Swinnerton was handed a 10-month prison sentence suspended for two years as well as a 10-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

Prosecutor Shaun Dryden previously told the court: "He actively searched images of children and confirmed the purpose of the search was for his own sexual gratification. He would view the images on a weekly basis for about half an hour."

This week the sick paedophile has been barred from returning to teaching indefinitely following the ordeal.

Decision maker Sarah Buxcey said: "The advice indicates that there are cases involving certain conduct where it is likely that the public interest will have greater relevance and weigh in favour of not offering a review period.

"These cases include any activity involving viewing, taking, making, possessing, distributing or publishing any indecent photograph or image or indecent pseudo-photograph or image of a child, including one-off incidents.

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"The panel did note that Mr Swinnerton was frank and forthcoming when first approached by the police and has admitted to his actions.

"However, the panel found that Mr Swinnerton was convicted of possession of indecent images of children which links to the behaviours where the panel should recommend no review period."

Officers found no evidence that any of the images or videos viewed by Swinnerton were made at the school and there is no allegation against him of physical abuse.

Swinnerton was initially found guilty of three counts of possession of illegal images of children relating to category A (the most severe), category B and category C.

He was later handed his sentence at Teesside Crown Court.

During the trial, officers said they seized the ex-teacher's laptop during the raid on his property and found 87 category A videos depicting child sex abuse.

In the wake of the court case the NCA revealed the disgraced educator had used TOR software (The Onion Router) to access the dark web anonymously.

NCA operations manager Julie Booker said: "Swinnerton had gone to considerable lengths using TOR to commit his offences and thought he was anonymous on the dark web.

"Offenders who view child sexual abuse are contributing to ever more children being abused and condemning them to years of extreme trauma and suffering.

"Every child in an abuse image is re-victimised when the photograph is viewed or shared.

"Protecting children from sexual abuse and stopping paedophiles is a top priority for the NCA."

After the hearing, a spokesperson for St Clare’s school said: "This has been an upsetting matter for parents, carers, staff and the wider St Clare’s community.

"We are grateful for the support we have received from them and we continue to assure them that the wellbeing and safety of children of St Clare’s remains our priority at all times.

"It is also important to reiterate that this former employee’s offences were not in connection with his employment at the school."

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