Teacher who watched child rape videos while family were upstairs avoids jail

News

A former deputy headteacher of a primary school watched vile child rape videos while his family were upstairs at home.

Paedophile Richard Swinnerton admitted he had a “sexual attraction towards children” and would watch the vile abuse material on a “weekly basis”.

He was caught on May 15 after police executed a warrant at Swinnerton’s Coulby Newham home.

Following his arrest, the 31-year-old immediately resigned from his job at St Clare’s Catholic Primary School in Acklam, Middlesbrough.

His offences were not related to his employment at the school.

Swinnerton appeared at Teesside Crown Court on Tuesday to be sentenced for three counts of possession of indecent images.

Shaun Dryden, prosecuting, said that when officers went to Swinnerton’s home, he “made a significant statement to them”, and admitted straight away, saying; “It’s me, I’ve been looking at indecent images”.

He then pointed to a laptop on a nearby sofa which was recovered and examined.

On the initial examination, police found six videos containing indecent images, all of which were category A – the most severe.

The court heard that one video was a full 36 minutes long and involved a child between the age of six to eight.

Another five-minute long video was found which depicted the abuse of a child who was aged between two and three.

A more in-depth examination of Swinnerton’s laptop was later carried out where a total of 95 indecent images were discovered.

A total of 87 were in category A – 11 of which were “moving images”.

Seven images were in category B and one was in category C.

Mr Dryden said that when Swinnerton was interviewed, he made “full admissions” and said he had been accessing indecent images for around “two years”.

He said he would view the disgusting material when his “wife and child were upstairs”.

He said he viewed the material for “sexual gratification” on a “weekly basis” for “about half-an-hour”.

The court was told that Swinnerton was employed as a primary school teacher at the time of the offences and was also an active member in his local church.

He had been a primary school teacher for the past eight years but resigned as soon as he was arrested.

Swinnerton, who had no previous convictions, admitted to police that he had a “sexual attraction to children” and had done so since he was a child.

In mitigation, John Nixon, defending Swinnerton, said he was a “primary school deputy headmaster” and that he was an “intelligent, hard-working man” who is “well-educated”.

He said that Swinnerton was “very successful in his occupation”.

Mr Nixon told the court that there was “no suggestion whatsoever that there was any impropriety in his workplace” and that he viewed the school children as “pupils who were in his care”.

“His private life was quite separate from his public responsibilities”, he said.

He added that it is a “tragic fall from grace for him” and that his “life and reputation are in tatters” and was “required to split from his wife and child”.

Mr Nixon said that he had “chosen to be quite honest about the issues he has”.

Before sentencing, Judge Deborah Sherwin said that there was “no suggestion” that Swinnerton “crossed the boundaries with pupils” at the school he taught at.

She sentenced him to 10 months in prison, suspended for two years.

He must also undertake 35 rehabilitation activity days as well as a 27 day sex offender programme.

He must sign the sex offender register and was made subject to a sexual harm prevention order – both will last 10 years.

A St Clare’s school spokesperson 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.”