November 2004

Teacher admits child porn charges

A special needs teacher has escaped a prison sentence after admitting downloading more than 2,500 indecent images of children on to his computer.

Ralph Bell, of Bankhall Road,Stockport, Greater Manchester, pleaded guilty at Manchester Magistrates’ Court to 20 child porn offences.

He lost his job at Irwell Park High School in Salford after police raided his home in May.

The 38-year-old was given a three-year community rehabilitation order.

Bell was also ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for five years.

The court was told Greater Manchester Police arrested Bell as part of a crackdown on child pornography.

Raid ‘brought forward’

Detectives from the force’s special public protection unit staged a long-running, undercover operation to track down child porn abusers, resulting in the arrest of 48 people in July 2004.

But when officers realised Bell worked with vulnerable children at a secondary school , the raid on his house was brought forward.

Police seized a computer, discs and printed pictures. Bell was found to possess about 2,700 indecent images of youngsters aged between 11 and 15.

Det Supt Steve Heywood, who led the operation, said 80% of the indecent images were found to be level one indecency – the least serious level – while 20% were judged to be level two.

Prevention order

“In the case of Ralph Bell, we felt that, given his profession, we could not afford to allow him to remain in that position, so he was arrested prior to the raids being carried out, ” he said.

“Thankfully, there is no evidence to show he exploited his job to abuse young children.”

The court was told that when interviewed Bell, who now works with adults at a local voluntary group, admitted downloading and possessing the images.

A sexual offences prevention order was also made, banning him from contacting boys under the age of 16 via the internet for five years or from working in a voluntary capacity with boys aged under 16.