Teacher found with child porn allowed to return to work at school

Geoffrey Bettley not judged to be a risk to children by a Department of Education panel

The Government will move to ban any teachers caught with indecent images of children after it emerged that an RE teacher was allowed to return to work in a school after being found with child porn.

Geoffrey Bettley, 36, was judged not to be a risk to children after he was cautioned by police over and admitted having the images to a disciplinary panel overseen by the Department for Education. But the panel found that the teacher, who was previously employed at a school in West Yorkshire, should be allowed to teach again.

“In my mind, if you do this as a teacher you should accept that you will never teach again, it's wrong that he's been given this opportunity,” said Natalie Hough, 32, who has a niece at St Mary's Catholic School, where Mr Bettley formerly taught.

She added that she would take her children out of the school if someone who has been found with indecent images of children was teaching there.

She added: “How could he ever be trusted to work with children after what he did? Any school that employs him is going to make their parents very unhappy. A school is meant to be a safe place for children, not somewhere that you have to worry about their welfare and wonder who is teaching them.

”I'm not saying he shouldn't be able to get a job but he should not work in a school after what he did.“

The National College for Teaching and Leadership panel found that, on 11 March 2009, Mr Bettley visited an internet page site and viewed 6 child abuse images. When his computer was seized by the police on in December 2010, 143 images judged to be of the lowest severity on the government's grading scale were found - level one of the Copine scale. Investigators also found 46 erotic images, judged to be on level three of the 10-level scale.

The images were of under age children and were child abuse images, the panel found. Mr Bettley was placed on the Sex Offenders Register for two years and placed on the Children's Barred List and the Adults Barred List by the Independent Safeguarding Authority on in October 2011 but was removed on 21 June 2012.

He was suspended from his post as a teacher of Religious Education at the school in December 2010 and dismissed following a disciplinary hearing a year later.

The panel agreed that he had brought teaching into disrepute but found that, because the images did not relate to the school where he taught, they did not amount to professional conduct. He was, therefore, allowed to work as a teacher once more.

In its decision, the panel wrote: ”The downloading of images of this nature is a serious matter….A teacher is expected to demonstrate consistently high standards of personal and professional conduct. Although there is no suggestion that the viewing of the images took place in school, nevertheless the behaviour of Mr Bettley represented a serious departure from proper standards.

“If this behaviour was known to pupils, Mr Bettley could not be regarded as a role model. It is also right to say that although there was not a vast amount of images on Mr Bettley's computer, and the images which he had viewed were at the lowest end of the Copine scale, Mr Bettley had viewed images on the particular site for 2-3 years on and off.”

Richard Wintle attended the school between 1992-1997. The 31-year-old window cleaner said: “It's shocking really isn't it. I wouldn't send my kids there after hearing they once employed a teacher like that.

"I would never think of a teacher to do something like that - you're meant to be able to trust them.

“If you speak to anyone in the area they will tell you that it's a nice school.

”He may have the right to teach now but I don't see how anyone can take him on without causing a riot.

“No-one will trust him to be in the company of their children now, particularly parents who expect their children to be safe at school.”

The panel wrote that Mr Bettley's possession of the images did not show a “deep-seated attitude which leads to  harmful behaviour”.

In his decision Alan Meyrick wrote: “Mr Bettley, does not, in the view of the Panel, represent a risk to children and young people.” And he refused to order that he be barred from teaching.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “The Secretary of State does not make these decisions himself. They are made by an independent panel and reviewed by a senior official. We keep the process under review because of legal complexities and we are examining whether this case was handled correctly.

”We want to ensure that in future anyone cautioned or prosecuted for offences related to child pornography is prohibited from teaching. We are taking steps to revise the guidance the independent panel uses to make a decision on whether a teacher should be barred.“