October 2015

IT teacher jailed for grooming 13-year-old girl

A former IT teacher and ambassador for child protection online has been jailed for grooming a 13-year-old Esher schoolgirl on the internet and making indecent photographs of young girls.

Guildford Crown Court heard how 53-year-old Nicholas Flower had been the head of IT at a prestigious private school when he befriended a 13-year-old girl on Facebook under a fake name.

The teacher of 19 years committed the offences between January and August 2013 because he was ‘resentful’ towards children from private schools, after he had suffered a nervous breakdown in front of his own class and been replaced by another teacher.

Prosecuting, Lee Harris said Flower had been a teacher at the time, but not at the same school as the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Mr Harris said Flower repeatedly changed his name on Facebook, including to Charlie Wheeler, Charlie Walker and Charlie Haynes, which caused the girl to be concerned.

“During conversations she received a Skype call from him,” Mr Harris told the court.

“During the course of that Skype call she was shown pornographic material.”

In a police interview, the young girl described the footage as ‘powerful’ and ‘quite shocking actually seeing it’.

Mr Harris continued: “She was asked if she would put a picture of her up.”

“On one occasion she tried to not answer the call and then received a threatening message through (social media site) Ask FM,”

The grooming took place over the period of a week, with Flower usually calling at 11pm and ended when the girl told her head of year.

Police tracked Flower via an IP address and seized his iPad and computer, on which they discovered more than 150 indecent images.

Of these, 61 were classed as category A images involving female children mainly under the age of 13.

When arrested in August 2013, Flower admitted the offences and said his wife and children were unaware.

In police interview he said: “I am very sorry for what I have done,” and that he stored some of the indecent images on a virtual hard drive to prevent his family from seeing them.

Flower, who is now a driver delivering bathroom fittings, said he had been unhappily married at the time and admitted to receiving sexual gratification from the images.

‘Respectable background’

Defending Flower, Selwyn Shapiro said the case was one of ‘utmost seriousness’ and that the defendant had attended 70 sessions of a rehabilitation programme but tried to argue it did not constitute a breach of trust.

He said Flower was of a ‘respectable background’.

“There was a time in his life when he was facing his class and he broke down – he was crying,” Mr Shapiro said.

“For him within that was devastating, that led to him losing his sense of self.

“There is nothing worse, as he saw it, than having a colleague come into the classroom and take over.

“This led to effectively a breakdown.”

Sentencing Flower on Friday, Recorder Jane Humphryes made reference to the irony of his position protecting his own students from online dangers, for which he had been monitoring their Facebook pages.

The judge said his victim had been targeted because of her private school status and Flower had been under the influence of alcohol during the offence.

“He began to feel resentful after they saw him break down in class,” she said. Miss Humphryes said the court had received a character reference from Flower’s girlfriend, who had three children including a ten-year-old daughter.

“People such as you who choose to work with children are put in a position of utmost trust,” she said.

“You have let down not only yourself and your own family but your profession and public confidence of security and safety of all children in our schools.”

Flower, of Arrowhead Close, Gloucester was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment for one count of causing a child to watch an image of sexual activity, three counts of making indecent images and one count of possessing an extreme pornographic image