May 2010

Three years’ jail for child porn teacher


A teacher who was caught with almost 190,000 indecent child images on his computer was jailed for three years after he also admitted molesting a former pupil who had a schoolgirl crush on him.

But the sentence imposed on father-of-two Benjamin Clay, 35, was condemned as “far too short” by Laura Morse, the ex-pupil who fell victim to his indecent assaults in the late 1990s.

She told detectives that as an 11-13 year old she had a crush on Clay, who had been her English teacher at Pittville School in Cheltenham.

She told how she contacted police after reading in her local paper last year that he had been arrested for child pornography offences.

After seeing the disgraced teacher imprisoned at Gloucester Crown Court Miss Morse, now 24, said: “I am absolutely gutted at what he got. I was expecting it would be a lot longer.”

On one occasion he took her into a park where he kissed her and touched her inappropriately.

Miss Morse, who waived her right to anonymity, said: “No amount of years he spends in prison will take my hurt and anger away. Part of my childhood has been taken away and my memories are now tainted.

“Nothing will ever make that right.

“He groomed and abused me, making a strong and confident person into a vulnerable victim. I will never forgive – and unfortunately I can never forget.”

Clay, a married man whose devout Christian wife is said to be standing by him, admitted four offences of possessing indecent images, one of attempting to pervert the course of justice, two of indecent assault on Laura Morse and one of gross indecency with her.

Jailing him for a total of three years Judge William Hart also told him he would have to sign the sex offenders’ register for life and would be placed on the list of people barred from working with children,

The judge also made a sexual offences prevention order banning Clay from activities including taking pictures of children except his own two daughters, aged one and five.

The judge said Clay had inflicted shame and disgrace on himself, his young family and his mother.

“You have turned yourself really from a pillar of society into a pariah,” said the judge.

“At the age of 35 you have marked yourself in a way which will be indelible.”

The judge said Clay had exploited his teacher relationship with Laura, who had been a pupil of his until shortly before the offences against her.

“You exploited that schoolgirl crush instead of protecting her and you put into practice a sexual desire towards young children.”

Mary Harley, prosecuting, told the court that on November 25 last year police investigating a German child pornography racket went to Clay’s home in Cheltenham.

They took away computer equipment but while they were examining it Clay got rid of two other hard drives by cooking and burning them.

He was arrested on November 30. There were several gasps of disgust from people in the public gallery as Mrs Harley gave a graphic account of what the videos showed.

She said that police found a total of 190,000 indecent images in organised files on the computer but the Crown accepted they were mainly at the lowest level 1 on a scale of 1-5 in terms of seriousness.

David Webster, defending, said “He has left his own life and career in ruins. He is profoundly remorseful for what he has done.

“His position as a teacher is perhaps the most serious feature of his offences.”