The deputy head teacher of a primary school has admitted online child sexual offences after a National Crime Agency investigation.
Update: 27 October 2020
Richard Swinnerton was sentenced today at Teeside Crown Court to a ten month custodial sentence, suspended for two years.
Swinnterton is also required to complete an accredited sex offenders course and 33 rehabilitation requirement days.
He will be added to the sex offenders register for 10 years. A Sexual Harm Prevention Order was also issued to run for 10 years.
14 September 2020
Richard Swinnerton, 30, of Coulby Newham, Middlesbrough, said he had watched child sexual abuse on the dark web for two years before he was arrested by NCA officers at his home on 15 May this year.
He told investigators the footage including adults raping children.
Swinnerton - who has resigned from his job at St Clare’s Catholic Primary School in Middlesbrough – said he used TOR software (The Onion Router) to make himself anonymous on the dark web.
The charges related to online child sexual abuse imagery.
Officers have found no evidence to suggest that any of the images were made at the school and there is no allegation of physical abuse.
Today, Swinnerton appeared at Teeside Magistrates’ Court and admitted three counts of possession of illegal images of children relating to category A (the most severe), category B and category C.
When officers arrested him they seized his laptop which contained 87 Category A videos of child abuse.
He will be sentenced at Teeside Crown Court on a date to be confirmed.
NCA operations manager Julie Booker said: “Swinnerton had gone to considerable lengths using TOR to commit his offences and thought he was anonymous on the dark web.
“Offenders who view child sexual abuse are contributing to ever more children being abused and condemning them to years of extreme trauma and suffering.
“Every child in an abuse image is revictimised when the photograph is viewed or shared.
“Protecting children from sexual abuse and stopping paedophiles is a top priority for the NCA.”
A St Clare’s school spokesperson said: “This has been an upsetting matter for parents, carers, staff and the wider St Clare’s community.
“We are grateful for the support we have received from them and we continue to assure them that the wellbeing and safety of children of St Clare’s remains our priority at all times.
“It is also important to reiterate that this former employee’s offences were not in connection with his employment at the school.”
Child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation runs the Stop It Now! helpline which offers confidential advice to anyone concerned about their own or someone else’s behaviour towards children.
If you are concerned a crime has been committed against a child contact your local police. For child safety advice visit Thinkuknow.co.uk.