January 2003

Porn teacher walks free

A primary school teacher who claimed he downloaded child pornography from the Internet only because he was curious walked free from court.

Ronald Smith, a film buff and a regular contestant on TV quiz shows including supplied his credit card details to a US-based company to access photographs of child sex abuse.

Smith, who claimed he had been revolted by the images, was placed on probation and ordered to register as a sex offender after admitting making indecent images.

But an MP who has campaigned for children’s rights condemned the “light sentence” and criticised the Wolverhampton Crown Court judge who decided not to jail Smith.

Debra Shipley (Lab Stour-bridge), who sponsored the Protection of Children Act in 1999 and works closely with the NSPCC, said: “I am appalled that this man has been let off with such a light sentence.

Smith was working at Char-lemont Primary School in West Bromwich, when his home was raided by police last September. He was suspended and later offered his resignation, a spokesman for Sandwell Council said.

The charges did not relate to work at the school.

At an earlier hearing at Wolverhampton Crown Court, Smith had admitted 12 specimen counts of making indecent images.

He was sentenced to three years’ probation and ordered to register as a sex offender for five years. He was also ordered to pay £595 in costs.

Judge John Wait said the sentence would allow control and supervision of the defendant over a longer period than a jail term.

Michael Grey, defending, said: “His life has been ruined by that half an hour of curiosity. He has lost his job, he has spent 18 days in custody (on remand) and also spent three months in a bail hostel.

“He has lost his career and his reputation.”

Mr Grey added that Smith had also been forced to put his home, which boasts an eight-seat cinema, up for sale.

After the case, it emerged that while on remand at a bail hostel in Shelton, Stoke-on-Trent, Smith claimed he felt he was the victim of a “witch-hunt” by police.

The teacher, who also took the opportunity to bemoan the impending sale of his “pride and joy“, his home cinema, wrote: “I was curious to find out what ‘child pornography’ on the Internet actually entailed.

“The images I saw horrified and disgusted me. I continued to look at the website in question for a time until I had more than enough insight into the kind of sickening abuse which was being peddled.”