March 2021

Pervert teacher at York boarding school used sick hidden camera to spy on naked pupil showering

A pervert teacher at a top Yorkshire boarding school used a spy camera to take video footage of a pupil showering, before trying to pin the blame on his colleagues.

Thomas David Ball, 30, also downloaded vile images from the internet of young children being raped, bound and tortured.

Ball, who was a senior housemaster at Queen Ethelburga’s, a fee-paying school in Thorpe Underwood, near York, became “infatuated” with a teenage pupil.

York Crown Court heard Ball “hunted” for social media snaps of the victim and made 29 separate Google searches for the boy about a month before the spycam incident.

Prosecutor Paul Newcombe said Ball had installed the camera, which he bought on Amazon, in a bathroom at the fee-paying day-and-boarding school.

The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had just returned from registration when Ball asked him to take a shower.

While showering, the boy noticed wires beneath the sink which were connected to a spy camera whose lights were on to show it was active.

Mr Newcombe said the boy trusted Ball enough to hand him the camera.

He told the court Ball then took it away adding: “No doubt to dispose of the 15-minute video footage.”

The boy became suspicious and told his mother and Ball later admitted to the school’s deputy safeguarding leader that he had made a “stupid mistake”.

Ball – who had just been promoted to a role monitoring pupils’ wellbeing – handed the camera to a staff member.

The school reported the matter to police but before officers arrived, Ball went to his room, telling staff he was going to “retrieve something”.

Mr Newcombe told the court he was in fact trying to “conceal evidence” by hiding a second spy camera, a tablet and a memory stick in his car boot.

On the tablet were a cache of sickening images of children, including videos showing the rape and torture of young children.

Police found Ball’s fingerprints on the spy camera’s memory card and on the device itself, the court heard.

Despite this, he denied he was behind the covert footage of the naked boy and tried to blame other staff members.

Mr Newcombe said other members of staff had to be interviewed and questioned which caused great “stress and upset and disruption to the school”.

Police forensic officers examined Ball’s devices and found he had been searching for spy cameras on the internet.

Mr Newcombe added: “The defendant purchased two spy cameras and an SD card in May 2018 from Amazon. The cameras came with night vision.”

Police discovered the footage and recovered a laptop and hard drive from Ball’s room containing a stash of indecent images of children which had been downloaded using “peer-to-peer” file-sharing software.

Mr Newcombe added: “The images mainly involved boys as young as 10 being sexually abused.”

There were 168 such images ranging in seriousness from Category A – the worst kind of such material – to Category C, including both photos and videos.

Ball had also downloaded over 20 prohibited or cartoon images, including photos and videos of young boys being bound, raped and tortured.

The images included a video of a child between two and five years’ old being raped.

Ball admitted three counts of making indecent images of children and downloading prohibited images.

He had initially denied taking covert video footage of the boy, installing the camera and voyeurism at the school in the summer of 2018, the court heard.

But he changed his pleas to guilty about a month before a trial was due to take place.

Judge Simon Hickey told Ball his offences against the “vulnerable” boy were a “gross breach of trust”, adding: “Parents expect their children to be looked after and not spied upon and filmed.”

Citing Ball’s “29 separate searches” for images of the boy on social media, the judge said the voyeurism offences involved “significant planning and determination”.

Ball, of Over Road, Atherstone, Warwickshire, who admitted charges of voyeurism and making indecent images of children, was jailed for 20 months, of which he will serve half behind bars before being released on licence.

He was also placed on the sex offenders register for 10 years and made subject to a sexual harm prevention order to curb his internet activities and limit his contact with children.