England

Tameside abuse image teacher spared jail sentence

A primary school teacher who downloaded thousands of images of child sex abuse avoided a jail term after a court heard he had been abused himself.

Matthew Scott Catherall, 39 was ordered to complete a three-year internet sexual offending treatment programme by Manchester Crown Court.

Judge Jonathan Geake said Catherall's reason for downloading the images were "very complex and highly unusual".

The teacher had admitted 18 specimen charges of possessing the images.

Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, heard Catherall, described as an "inspirational and well-liked" teacher at Greswell Primary in Denton, Tameside.

'Glowing references'

The teacher, who has been sacked, was also barred from using the internet in private and ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for five years.

Saying the case merited treatment not a jail sentence, Judge Geake stated: "To any normal person these pictures are quite extraordinarily and deeply unpleasant.

"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."

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

The images, which included the worst level of sexual abuse, were among 88 photos on Catherall's laptop, seized from his home in Denton after a police raid on 4 March.

A further 2,968 images had been deleted but recovered by experts.

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

'Not alone'

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

Catherall, who has been teaching in the UK since 2007, is originally from the Mormon community in Utah and came to Britain in 2005 on a teacher exchange programme.

He had been sexually abused between the ages of six and eight by his grandfather, the court heard.

Saul Brody, prosecuting, said the defendant, who made full admissions to police after his arrest, had "started to look at images as a source of comfort to himself, so he could appreciate he was not alone".

Robert Lancaster, defending, said Catherall needed help, not punishment , adding, "This is a man damaged himself by the abuse suffered as a child."

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