• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Former Witney teaching assistant had indecent images of children, court hears


Sep 8, 2022

A former teaching assistant was arrested at his then school – after authorities in the US linked a Kik account in his name to child sex abuse images.

Non-profit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children contacted UK police as a user on the social media site was believed to have shared indecent images of children in August 2019.

The Kik account was linked to the IP address at Benjamin Pooley’s then home in Witney – and the account set up with his email address and phone number.

Oxford Crown Court heard police officers executed a warrant at the 28-year-old’s home on March 4 last year.

“However, Mr Pooley had moved out of the address four weeks earlier. He was arrested at his place of work, which was a school in Witney,” prosecutor James Gwatkin said.

Pooley, who in 2019 appeared on an episode of quiz show favourite Countdown, was interviewed by the police on two occasions. He denied association with the Kik account or that he had downloaded illegal images of children.

That was unmasked as a lie when two devices – an iPhone found on him at the school and a computer seized from his home in Stanton Harcourt – were analysed by police specialists.

In total, he had 22 images in category A, the most serious category and which includes depiction of child rape. There were two category B images, 38 in category C and 15 prohibited images of children. Some of the children in the pictures were pre-pubescent.

There was evidence of Google searches for ‘extreme' pornography in 2020 and 2021.

Sentencing him to eight months’ imprisonment suspended for two years, Judge Michael Gledhill QC told Pooley: “The children in those images that you were looking at for your own sexual gratification were being abused by others and, but for the likes of you paying for those images, they would be unlikely to be abused.

“So, you are directly responsible, albeit in part, for the sexual abuse of pre-pubescent children – to say nothing of the older ones. You should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself.”

He said he could not begin to imagine how Pooley had got any pleasure ‘from this filth’.

Mitigating, Dana Bilan said her client had no previous convictions, was now working in a laboratory to support his wife and baby, and had undertaken therapy to understand why he had looked at the indecent material.

“He expressed his remorse in his probation interview and continues to do so through me today,” she added.

Pooley, now of Grange Road, London, pleaded guilty at the magistrates’ court to possession of indecent images and prohibited images of children.

Judge Gledhill ordered Pooley do 100 hours of unpaid work, up to 40 rehabilitation sessions with the probation service and pay £425 in costs.

He was made subject to a 10 year sexual harm prevention order and will be a registered sex offender for a decade.

In a parting shot, the judge told the defendant: “Don’t ever come before this court again.”

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward