March 2003

Former teacher jailed for child porn

A FORMER teacher whose computer contained 1,800 “abhorrent” pornographic images of children downloaded from the internet has been jailed for 15 months.

Paul Sear was a physics teacher at Stowupland High School when he was arrested by police as the result of investigations in America. They examined his computer and found the images, which he had gone back to and copied as many as 58,000 times.

Bury St Edmunds Crown Court heard the pictures were some of the most disturbing in circulation on the internet.

Christopher Morgan, prosecuting, said they included images of adults having sex with children and a child suspended by the arms in “a condition of bondage”.

He added: “The child being photographed is plainly distressed.”

Jailing Sear, a married father, Judge Nicholas Beddard yesterday said: “I have seen the images. They are undoubtedly at the serious end of the scale of such images as come to the courts.

“Those who acquire such images have indirect responsibility for the abuse and corruption suffered by children used in pornography. If there were not people willing to acquire images they would not be created in the first place. The offences are so serious that only a custodial sentence is justified.”

Sear, of Burrell Road, Ipswich, was put on the sex offenders register for 10 years and banned from working with children.

The 54-year-old, who was living with his wife and children when the offences were committed, admitted at a previous hearing one charge of distributing indecent photographs of children between August 13, 2001 and May 15, 2002 and 20 specimen charges of making indecent photographs of children between January 11, 2001 and May 16, 2002.

Mr Morgan told the court: “The computer contained 1,800 images of a pornographic nature relating to children. Further investigations revealed that the defendant had on many occasions, as many as 58,000, gone back to images and copied and recopied them on to the computer.”

Mr Morgan said computer records showed that on the evening before his arrest in May last year there had been many “hits” on internet sites.

He added that Sear had also begun placing adverts in a contact magazine, and was using Stowupland High School as the return address. A colleague opened one reply.

Sear originally offered to co-operate with police in tracing the recipient he had distributed computer material to but later backtracked, said the prosecutor. “Investigations trying to track where it went were unsuccessful and the chance of arresting others in a paedophile ring has been lost,” he added.

Kate Davey, mitigating, said Sear had no previous convictions and had an “exemplary” record as a teacher at Stowupland and previously at a school in Ipswich. There was no suggestion of any improper behaviour with any pupils.

Ms Davey said Sear was not happy in the teaching profession, which he had fallen into because he couldn’t think of anything else to do. She suggested his “lack of suitability” for teaching might have influenced his offending.

“When under stress he has behaviour of looking at sordid photographs of adults and children. He did not go out and (specifically) look for child porn websites. He has lost everything and is facing financial ruin. He has lost his wife, and his reputation. The local Press have not been kind to him and he has lost many friends as well.”

Ms Davey said that many of the 1,800 computer images were duplicates but added that experts who had interviewed Sear for the court were critical he “did not fully appreciate the abhorrent nature of some of the photographs”.

Judge Beddard said Sear would serve half his sentence in jail and ordered he be placed on extended licence for three years to stop reoffending and help with rehabilitation.

After the case, Tom Scherb, area education manager at Suffolk County Council, said: “We would like to re-assure parents that the offences committed do not relate to Stowupland High School in any way. The school and local education authority had no knowledge of these offences, or reason to have any knowledge, until the criminal investigation began, when all the appropriate steps were taken.

“Mr Sear is no longer a teacher at the school or employed by the county council, and his conduct has already been reported to the relevant authorities.”