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Primary teacher who watched child sex abuse on dark web banned from profession for life

Richard Swinnerton, who taught at St Clare’s Catholic Primary School in Middlesbrough, received a suspended jail sentence in 2020 after he admitted three counts of possession of illegal images of children.

Primary school deputy head Richard Swinnerton watched child sexual abuse on the dark web for two years before he was arrested. (SWNS)
Primary school deputy head Richard Swinnerton watched child sexual abuse on the dark web for two years before he was arrested. (SWNS)

The deputy head of a primary school who admitted watching videos of child sex abuse on the dark web has been banned from teaching for life.

Richard Swinnerton, 30, received a suspended jail sentence in 2020 after he admitted three counts of possession of illegal images of children relating to category A (the most severe), category B and category C.

Swinnerton told investigators after his arrest that the footage he watched included adults raping children.

He later resigned from his job at St Clare’s Catholic Primary School in Middlesbrough but a Teaching Regulation Agency disciplinary panel has now banned him from teaching for life.

The panel said that Swinnerton’s behaviour and conviction were extremely serious given the nature of the offences and recommended he never be allowed back into the profession.

In their recommendation, the panel said that Swinnerton breached the Teachers’ Standards and that his behaviour “would have been likely to have had an impact on the safety and/or security of pupils and/or members of the public”.

Richard Swinnerton later quit his position as deputy head at St Clare’s Catholic Primary School in Middlesborough. (Google)
Richard Swinnerton later quit his position as deputy head at St Clare’s Catholic Primary School in Middlesborough. (Google)

They argued that if Swinnerton was allowed to continue teaching it would “be likely to affect public confidence in the teaching profession”.

The panel’s arguments were accepted by a representative for the education secretary, who confirmed that Swinnerton would not be allowed to return to teaching.

Swinnerton used TOR software (The Onion Router) to make himself anonymous on the dark web while searching for content.

National Crime Agency (NCA) officers found no evidence to suggest that any of the images were made at the school and there is no allegation of physical abuse.

Richard Swinnerton used the dark web to access videos showing child sexual abuse. (Getty/stock photo)
Richard Swinnerton used the dark web to access videos showing child sexual abuse. (Getty/stock photo)

NCA operations manager Julie Booker said at the time of Swinnerton’s conviction: “Offenders who view child sexual abuse are contributing to ever more children being abused and condemning them to years of extreme trauma and suffering.

“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 St Clare’s community.

“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.”