June 2013

RE teacher who downloaded child abuse images allowed back in classroom

gb

menston school

St Mary’s school in Menston where Geoffrey Bettley taught and from where he was dismissed

A disgraced RE teacher, who was sacked for possessing indecent images of children on a computer, has been deemed fit to return to teaching by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Geoffrey Bettley, 36, was dismissed from his ten-year career at St Mary’s Catholic School, Menston, after he accepted a police caution.

But Mr Gove has now supported a disciplinary panel’s recommendation that he does not pose a risk to children and that he should be able to resume his teaching career.

The National College of Teaching and Leadership professional conduct panel ruled that the child abuse images were at the lower end of seriousness and that Bettley, who had “shown remorse and victim empathy” did not pose a risk.

Backing that view, Mr Gove said: “I have considered this case and the need to be proportionate and also to act in the public interest.

“Although the findings in this case are serious ones, I support the recommendation of the panel that a prohibition order should not be applied in this case.”

But Conservative MP Philip Davies, whose Shipley constituency includes Menston, said: “This is a very worrying case and situation, and I suspect most parents would feel very uneasy about this man being able to continue teaching given his past record.

“I think that in such cases there should be an automatic bar on people being able to teach again.”

The professional conduct panel heard that in September, 2011, Bettley was cautioned by police for possessing an indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph of a child on December 6, 2010.

He was placed on the Sex Offender Register for two years.

On March 11, 2009, he visited an internet page site and viewed six child abuse images. When his computer was seized , 143 images – assessed at the lowest, level one, involving nudity and/or erotic posing – were found and in addition a further 46 images at level three

The panel said Bettley had viewed images on the particular site for “two to three years on and off”.

And in its ruling it stated: “Mr Bettley acknowledged that the images were of under age children and were child abuse images.”

Bettley, who joined St Mary’s in September, 2001 from Yorkshire Martyrs Catholic School, Bradford, was suspended from his job on December 9, 2010, and dismissed a year later.

The panel said that his actions “amounted to conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute”, adding: “The downloading of images of this nature is a serious matter. It may be right to say that the images actually seen by Mr Bettley were not at the most serious end of the scale, but nevertheless embarking on the process of downloading such images may lead to the viewing of more serious images.”

Jane Held, independent chairman of Leeds Safeguarding Children Board, said on behalf of St Mary’s: “The Board is clear that in Leeds we do not want to see any kind of behaviour that may put children or young people at risk in any setting or service including schools.”