Abuse images teacher avoids jail

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The Independent Online

A primary school teacher who downloaded thousands of images of child sex abuse today escaped jail after telling a court it was a source of "comfort" after being abused himself.





Matthew Scott Catherall, 39, had been downloading child porn since his teenage years after being sexually molested by a family member when he was a boy, Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, heard.



Catherall was described as an "inspirational and well liked" teacher at Greswell Primary in Denton, Tameside.



He has now been sacked after admitting 18 specimen charges of possessing child pornography at an earlier hearing.



Today he was ordered to complete a three-year internet sexual offending treatment programme, barred from using the internet in private and ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for five years.



Passing sentence, Judge Jonathan Geake said: "To any normal person these pictures are quite extraordinarily and deeply unpleasant.



"In my judgment your reasons for doing this were very complex and highly unusual.



"You carried on accessing the indecent images to prove to yourself you were not alone and it provided you with some sense of calm and closure.



"It was a discrete part of your life, unknown to anybody. In all other ways you were leading a good and productive life.



"I have never seen quite so glowing references to a man in all my long experience of sitting in this court.



"This is a case that merits treatment rather than custodial punishment."



The sexual abuse images were among 88 photos on the defendant's laptop, seized from his home in Denton after a police raid on March 4.



They included images up to the worst level of child sexual abuse, the court heard.



A further 2,968 images had been deleted but were recovered by police analysis of the laptop.



None of the images of child abuse involved children from any schools Catherall worked with or of children he had contact with, the court heard.



Catherall was arrested after the UK Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre received intelligence he had subscribed to child porn websites in 2002 while living in the US.



Catherall is originally from the Mormon community in Utah in the US and came to the UK in 2005 on a teacher exchange programme.



While here he met his second wife, Beverley, who was in the public gallery in court today, and he has been a teacher in the UK since 2007.



The court heard while living in the US his first marriage failed because of sexual problems and he then told his father and other family members about the sexual abuse he had suffered between the ages of six and eight from his grandfather.



It then emerged other siblings had also been abused by the same family member.



Saul Brody, prosecuting, told the court the defendant made "full admissions" to police after his arrest.



"He started to look at images as a source of comfort to himself, so he could appreciate he was not alone," he said.



Robert Lancaster, mitigating, said Catherall needed help, not punishment and would only get treatment if he was spared a jail sentence.



He added: "This is a man damaged himself by the abuse suffered as a child."

PA