Teacher jailed for pupil porn

SASHA BORISSENKO
Last updated 13:00 25/02/2014
David Havili
JAILED: Stuart McGowan during sentencing in Nelson District Court.

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An outdoor education teacher who pretended he was a 15-year-old girl to elicit sexual images from his students has been sentenced to two years and four months in prison.

Stuart McGowan, 50, was sentenced at Nelson District Court yesterday on 30 representative charges of making and possessing objectionable pornographic material.

The name and locality of the school where McGowan worked was suppressed.

He was stood down from the school in September last year at the time the allegations surfaced.

The Teachers Council cancelled his registration in late January.

Prosecutor Ruth Thomas told the court the possession of material was premeditated and over a lengthy period.

She pointed to folders that were found at his address that had the letters "TY" printed on them, an abbreviation of "too young".

The 18 counts of making questionable material included photoshopping the faces of male students on to pornographic images.

He admitted to police that he bought a pre-paid cellphone and texted former and present pupils, pretending to be a girl offering to send pictures in exchange for photos of their genitals.

While the victims had no knowledge of the offending before charges were issued, this did not make the offending victimless, she said.

The gross breach of trust between student and teacher was significant. Society expected a particularly high degree of control and professionalism in the teaching profession.

Ms Thomas commended McGowan's guilty plea and his co-operation with the police.

But she said statements of remorse needed to be treated with caution as McGowan breached bail conditions by indirectly contacting a victim via a Trade Me account.

Despite having an extensive history of good character and trustworthiness, it was the build up of rapport over a long period of time that enabled the offending to take place, she said.

While he made no attempts to approach the victims, he did not have to, as he saw them on a regular basis at school.

The secretive nature of the offending was such that home detention was not considered a feasible sentence, she said.

Defence counsel Michael Vesty said McGowan wished to acknowledge the significant harm caused to the victims, their families, the school, the community, the profession, his family, his friends, the police and the courts.

He did not pose a serious risk to the community as he voluntarily offered all of the material to the police that was later used against him.

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He had "genuine insight into the moral repugnance of his behaviour" where he described himself as "worthless, hating himself, scum, weak and living beyond society".

He attempted to take his own life in the past so his victims did not have to worry about him in the future, he said.

McGowan acknowledged he noticed a problem in 2007 and made attempts to rectify it by moving and ceasing to use internet.

Judge Gregory Ross said McGowan's actions involved a significant breach of trust and a gross destruction of his students' privacy.

He questioned why McGowan took up teaching so late in his life in 2005, when he "must have known at that stage about his search for his own sexuality".

Any addiction must have clouded his judgment to such an extent to enable him to take on a job that meant he was more exposed to temptation, he said.

The teaching registration facilitated and enabled future offending.

The sad part of his "significant fall from grace" was that before the offending came to light he was a very well-liked teacher who was described as helpful and supportive, he said.

He was sentenced to two years and four months imprisonment, which was reduced from three years nine months because of the mitigating factors.

Nelson Bays child protection team officer in charge, Detective Sergeant Ian Langridge, said within a week after the protection team presented a seminar in the community where McGowan worked and lived, a member of the public expressed their concern with police about his lifestyle and his relationship with his students.

While the community was shocked when about 16,000 objectionable images were uncovered last year, "it was typical of most paedophiles to have a very good and trusting reputation in a community".

If people had concerns about adults around children, they should contact police, Crime Stoppers or Child, Youth and Family, he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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