Teacher jailed for downloading 33 indecent images of children

THE former deputy head teacher of a parish primary school who admitted downloading indecent images of children has been jailed for two years and nine months.

James John Matthews (42), who appeared in the Royal Court yesterday, also pleaded guilty to one count of improper use of the telecommunications system.

The court heard that in December last year police officers raided Matthews’ house and confiscated a number of electronic devices. These were then analysed, a process that took the force nine months.

When initially interviewed and asked if he had any indecent images of young children on any of his devices, Matthews, who worked as deputy headteacher at St John’s School when he was arrested, told the police: ‘No, Christ, no.’

However, police experts recovered 33 indecent images of young children from Matthews’ Apple iMac. Twelve of these images and one video were in the most serious category – Category A – while six were Category B and 14 fell into the lowest band, Category C.

The court was also told there was evidence Matthews had attempted to avoid detection by using a false name and encryption apps, deleting his browsing history and searching the web for ways to cover his tracks.

The telecoms offence dated from 2016, and involved Matthews sending a photograph of a young child to a man living in the Island. This man was also later convicted of child sex offences. According to the prosecution, this was evidence that Matthews had a long-standing sexual interest in young children.

In calling for a three-year sentence for the indecent photographs offences, and a further year to be added for the telecoms offence, Advocate Chris Baglin, for the prosecution, said: ‘The acts shown in these photographs actually happened... it causes serious sexual harm to those involved and their distribution encourages further production.’

Advocate David Steenson, defending, told the court that his client was of previous good character and was so ashamed of what he had done that he had even refused friends’ and colleagues’ offers to write references for him.

‘This is a man who is truly at rock bottom and who understands only honesty can help him in the long run,’ Advocate Steenson added. Matthews, the lawyer continued, had admitted the charges early on and was keen to seek treatment for his addiction.

Delivering the court’s sentence, Deputy Bailiff Robert MacRae, presiding, told Matthews: ‘We would have passed a longer sentence on you if it had involved any of the school children in your care. There is no evidence of this’.

In addition to being jailed, Matthews was put on the sex offenders’ register for seven years.

Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Inspector Cathy Davison, the senior investigating officer in the case, said: ‘The States of Jersey Police are committed to thoroughly investigating sexual offences, current or historic. This includes using the highly sophisticated technology available to us to find, investigate and prosecute those using the dark corners of the internet to satisfy their deplorable desires.’

A government spokesperson said the Children, Young People, Education and Skills Department would continue to provide support for the school, while ensuring children remained ‘safe and protected’.

The spokesperson said: ‘This has been the most challenging of years for St John’s School and we pay tribute to the head teacher and staff for their professionalism throughout, and the parents and carers for the support they have given to their children and the school community.

‘While the offences did not relate to the individual’s job at the school, it nonetheless had an impact on many and we hope that today’s sentencing helps to bring some closure to all those affected.

‘When the allegations were made known to the department, immediate and appropriate support was made available to the entire school community. At the same time, the individual concerned was immediately suspended while the department co-operated fully with the police investigations.

‘The department and partner agencies will continue to fully support the school and its community as it moves forward to a new school year.

‘We fully understand the community’s justified disquiet and distress regarding this individual’s abhorrent actions. Crimes of this nature are not tolerated in any community and the department will continue to work with the appropriate agencies to ensure that our children remain safe and protected, which is our number-one priority.’

Jurats Anthony Olsen and Robert Christensen were sitting.

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