School takes action on child porn
The headteacher of a school raided in a national child pornography operation has written to the parents of pupils to allay their fears.
In his letter, the headmaster of Sedbergh School in Cumbria, Christopher Hirst, emphasised the investigation was confined to the school’s music department.
In an earlier statement he said: “I can confirm that the police have requested the school’s cooperation in certain inquiries they are conducting.
“It is the school’s policy to cooperate fully with the authorities at all times. As yet we have not been made aware in detail of the reasons for the inquiries. The school continues to function normally.”
The raid was one of 15 carried out by police forces across Britain on Friday.
One person from the Hampshire area was arrested in the operation and is being held for questioning.
Police are also examining a large quantity of books, letters, computer equipment videos and other evidence of paedophile activity seized for fresh leads.
The National Confederation of Parent Teachers’ Associations added their voice to those calling for a better vetting system for teachers in independent schools as two private schools were raided by officers looking for child pornography.
Durham School was also searched. Computers, videos and documents were removed.
The operation was co-ordinated by the Paedophilia Unit at Scotland Yard, which has been investigating a suspected major paedophile ring distributing and producing child pornography.
Three teachers and one former teacher at independent schools and a customs officer are reported to be among those being investigated.
It is believed police were given important new leads during their investigation into Adrian Stark, the director of music at St John’s School in Leatherhead.
Mr Stark committed suicide soon after being charged with possessing child pornography earlier this year.
The operation is the culmination of more than three years’ work by detectives. It is thought to be one of the biggest of its kind in Britain.
The Head of the Scotland Yard Paedophilia Unit, Detective Chief Inspector Jim Reynolds, said: “I am hopeful this will lead to prosecutions and further intelligence.
“We have to examine all the material we have seized before we can decide on how to proceed.”
In the past 20 years, one or more men who taught at 62 independent schools, including Haberdashers’ Aske’s, Ampleforth, Wellington College, King Edward’s School Birmingham and The Oratory School, Reading, have been convicted of sex crimes – from indecent assault to gross indecency and buggery – against 277 male pupils.
Prosecutions involving 18 of those 62 schools came to court in the past two years. Former teachers from a further four independent schools have been charged and are awaiting trial.
Eton, Marlborough, Millfield, Oundle and Tonbridge are among 30 other schools where a male teacher has been convicted of possessing child abuse images. Downside School, Somerset, features in both categories.
Another 36 private-sector schools have been linked to child abuse. They include as yet unresolved prosecutions, civil actions for damages following an alleged abuser’s death, teachers convicted of abusing boys unconnected to their school, and police investigations that led to arrests but no charges.
In this category are Harrow, Sedbergh and Durham schools, all raided in the late 1990s during a nationwide investigation into an alleged paedophile network of teachers at six leading public schools. A teacher at each school was questioned and material including photographs, videos, letters and computer equipment was seized. No one was prosecuted due to lack of evidence.