Catholic primary school deputy head, 31, is spared jail after police raided his home to reveal he had been secretly watching child rape videos on the dark web while his wife and own child slept
- Richard Swinnerton confessed to watching child rape videos on the dark web
- He was ‘fast tracked’ into his teaching post in recognition of his ‘great potential’
- No evidence he had ever ‘crossed the boundary’ into harming a child himself
A primary school deputy headmaster who admitted being attracted to children after he was caught with abuse videos has been spared jail.
Richard Swinnerton was ‘fast tracked’ into his post in recognition of his ‘great potential’ and was respected in his school and the church he attended.
But the 31-year-old’s life and reputation have been left ‘in tatters’ after he confessed to watching child rape videos on the dark web while his wife and child were in bed.
When officers from the National Crime Agency raided his home in May this year, Swinnerton pointed them to his laptop and said: ‘It’s me, I have been looking at the indecent images.’
Richard Swinnerton admitted three counts of possessing indecent images of children
The 31-year-old’ (pictured outside Teesside Crown Court today), confessed to watching child rape videos on the dark web while his wife and child were in bed
Swinnerton worked as deputy head at St Clare’s Catholic Primary School in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire.
There was no evidence the 31-year-old had ever ‘crossed the boundary’ into harming a child himself, the court heard.
His computer was taken and forensically examined, leading to the discovery of 95 indecent images and videos – 87 of them in the most serious Category A.
Swinnerton had viewed the videos using The Onion Router (TOR) which gave him access to the dark web.
He said he had been accessing indecent images for the past 12 months when his wife and child were upstairs in bed.
In a second interview he told police he was sexually attracted to children and had been since he was a child.
Swinnerton admitted three counts of possessing indecent images of children in Categories A, B and C. He resigned from his post following his arrest in May.
Prosecutor Shaun Dryden told Teesside Crown Court: ‘He actively searched images of children and confirmed the purpose of the search was for his own sexual gratification. He would view the images on a weekly basis for about half an hour.’
John Nixon, mitigating, said: ‘He’s well educated and very successful in his chosen occupation, becoming a deputy head at a very young age having been fast tracked due to his great potential.
‘There is no suggestion of any impropriety in the workplace. He has always known the children in his school as no more than pupils in his care. His private life was quite separate from his public responsibilities.
Swinnerton worked as deputy head at St Clare’s Catholic Primary School in Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire
‘He is a man with no previous convictions or cautions who has made a positive contribution to society.
‘He is hard working, well liked and very well respected, it has been a tragic fall from grace which sees his life and reputation in tatters.’
Giving him a 10 month prison sentence, suspended for two years, Judge Deborah Sherwin said there was no evidence of Swinnerton ‘crossing the boundary’ into harming any children himself.
She imposed a Sexual harm Prevention order for 10 years, the same length of time that Swinnerton must register as a sex offender.
She told him: ‘Work should be done to make sure nothing like that ever does happen.
‘What was your chosen profession is unlikely to be a profession open to you for the future. You have that punishment in addition to the punishment passed by the court.’
National Crime Agency operations manager Julie Booker said: ‘Swinnerton went to considerable lengths using TOR to commit his offences and thought he was anonymous on the dark web.
‘Every child in an abuse image is re-victimised when the photograph is viewed or shared.’
A St Clare’s school spokesperson said: ‘This has been an upsetting matter for parents, carers, staff and the wider community at St Clare’s. 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.’