March 2008

Teacher avoids jail after downloading child abuse images


A retired east Belfast schoolteacher who downloaded more than 2,500 pornographic photographs of children as young as six from the internet was given a suspended prison sentence.

Thomas Norman McKeown (60), who taught at Grosvenor Grammar school in Belfast for 37 years, viewed the child porn on his home computer.

McKeown, from Martello Park in Holywood was Head of Mathematics and a rugby coach at the school. He admitted downloading 2,685 images of young girls over a two-year period.

Downpatrick Crown Court heard that two photos were of sexual activity between adults and children. The married grandfather pleaded guilty to 26 counts of making an indecent photo of a child over a period from January 2005 to January 2007.

The court heard how police searched McKeown’s home on March 14 last year as a result of a separate police investigation into child pornography in England.

When computer equipment taken from his home was examined, 2,685 pornographic images of children were found.

Of those images, 2,681 were in the lowest of five categories of child pornography and the rest in two higher categories.

The court heard there was also evidence that McKeown has accessed child porn websites.

He admitted he was responsible for all the images on his computer equipment.

Crown counsel David Russell said children in the photographs were aged between eight and 12 but at least one of them was believed to be as young as six.

Defence counsel David Hopley QC said a vast majority of the images were in the lowest of the five categories of child pornography. He pointed out he had not distributed them to anyone else, adding his actions have had consequences for his career.

References were given to the court by two of McKeown’s teaching colleagues from Grosvenor Grammar school, including sixth form head William Elliott who told the court McKeown was “very well respected”.

Judge Peter Gibson handed McKeown a 12-month jail term, suspended for 18 months, placed him on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years, and banned McKeown from working with children again.