St Mary’s Catholic School, Menston
Disgraced RE teacher found with 200 indecent images of children can continue teaching after Michael Gove gives go-ahead
‘Very worrying case’: RE teacher Geoffrey Bettley (pictured) has been allowed to carry on working in schools despite being cautioned for possessing indecent images of children
A disgraced RE teacher who was sacked for possessing indecent images of children has been given the go-ahead to carry on teaching by Education Secretary Michael Gove.
Geoffrey Bettley, 36, was dismissed from his ten-year career at St Mary’s Catholic School in Menston, West Yorkshire, after he accepted a police caution.
Mr Gove has now supported a disciplinary panel’s recommendation that he does not pose a risk to children and that he should be able to resume his teaching career.
But MP Phillip Davies has raised concerns about the ‘worrying situation’ and warned that it will make parents feel ‘uneasy’.
The National College of Teaching and Leadership professional conduct panel ruled that the child abuse images were at the lower end of seriousness and that Bettley, who had ‘shown remorse and victim empathy’, did not pose a risk.
An official working under powers delegated from Mr Gove backed their recommendations.
On behalf of the Secretary of State, they wrote: ‘I have considered this case and the need to be proportionate and also to act in the public interest.
‘Although the findings in this case are serious ones, I support the recommendation of the panel that a prohibition order should not be applied in this case.’
Mr Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, West Yorkshire, said: ‘This is a very worrying case and situation and I suspect most parents would feel very uneasy about this man being able to continue teaching given his past record.
‘I think that in such cases there should be an automatic bar on people being able to teach again.’
Bettley, described in the report as a family man, was placed on the Sex Offender Register for two years.
He was also placed on the Children’s Barred List and the Adults Barred List by the Independent Safeguarding Authority on October 19, 2011, but removed on June 21 last year.
On March 11, 2009, he visited an internet page site and viewed six child abuse images.
When his computer was seized, 143 images – assessed at the lowest, level one, involving nudity and/or erotic posing – were found and in addition a further 46 images at level three which had not been opened by Mr Bettley.
The panel said Bettley had viewed images on the particular site for ‘two to three years on and off’.
In its ruling it stated: ‘Mr Bettley acknowledged that the images were of under-age children and were child abuse images.’
Bettley, who joined St Mary’s in September 2001 from Yorkshire Martyrs Catholic School in Bradford, West Yorkshire, was suspended from his job on December 9, 2010, and dismissed a year later.
The panel said that his actions ‘amounted to conduct that may bring the profession into disrepute.’
It said: ‘The downloading of images of this nature is a serious matter.
‘It may be right to say that the images actually seen by Mr Bettley were not at the most serious end of the scale, but nevertheless embarking on the process of downloading such images may lead to the viewing of more serious images.’
Jane Held, independent chairman of Leeds Safeguarding Children Board, said on behalf of St Mary’s: ‘The Board is clear that in Leeds we do not want to see any kind of behaviour that may put children or young people at risk in any setting or service including schools.’