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York teacher Richard Oldham jailed for sexual offences
A CHARITY has condemned the ‘catastrophically lenient’ jail sentence handed to a York primary school teacher who filmed children as they changed for swimming lessons.
Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, spoke out after Richard Oldham, 32, was jailed for six months by a judge at Leeds Crown Court.
Oldham, 32, admitted taking footage on his mobile phone while he was teaching and also admitted touching two pupils inappropriately and possessing hundreds of indecent images of children.
Judge Rodney Jameson QC said he was confident Oldham was "man enough" to wrestle his demons.
But Mr Saunders said: “It would seem to be a catastrophically lenient sentence for such vile crimes and just sends out the worst kind of message to people contemplating abusing children. Six months is nothing."
During eight years teaching and working at at least two York primary schools, Oldham took covert pictures of boys undressing, touched pupils sexually in class and downloaded images of children being abused on to his home computer, the court heard. He also talked about sexual matters to primary school boys as he took them to swimming lessons.
As he passed the six-month prison sentence for the 23 offences, Judge Jameson told Oldham: "I know that for you that will be a very severe punishment. You have demons to wrestle with. I am confident you are man enough to do it."
The judge said what had happened was a “great tragedy”. He called Oldham an "exceptionally good" teacher, but police called him "every parent's worst nightmare".
Detective Sergeant Adam Normanton, of York Protecting Vulnerable Persons Unit, said: “Richard Oldham is a predatory paedophile. It is quite apparent by evidence obtained during the course of the investigation that he actively pursued a career in teaching to enable himself a position where he could abuse children for his own sexual gratification.
“His wickedness is such that he particularly abused the children who he thought would either not tell anyone or would not be believed.
“Oldham tried to portray himself as the model teacher to the police, his colleagues and his family. He was in fact the opposite, he was every parents' worst nightmare and prison is the right place for him.”
The offences began coming to light last September after a 10-year-old boy complained that the teacher touched him during a lesson. Following media coverage, a 10-year-old boy at a different school came forward to say he had been touched by Oldham between September 2010 and July last year.
Prosecution barrister Aisha Wadoodi said when news of the sex crimes broke and before he knew the identity of the teacher, one of Oldham's former pupils told his mother: "I bet that's Mr Oldham. He's a right weirdo. He used to touch all the lads' legs."
Earlier, the judge said the crimes were offences “which strike at the root of the relationship” that children and parents should have with teachers.
Oldham, formerly of Murton Garth, Murton, and latterly of Holsworthy in Devon, pleaded guilty to 23 offences including repeated sexual abuse of two ten-year-old pupils at different York primary schools; taking 42 images of primary school pupils changing for swimming lessons; and downloading more than 2,000 sexual images of children including 25 that the judge said were of children being raped.
He was put on the sex offenders' register for ten years, banned from ever working with children and made subject to a sexual offences prevention order controlling his internet access.
Miss Wadoodi said Oldham abused one boy when he took work to the teacher's desk and at the boy's desk.
Judge Jameson said he was particularly concerned about the filming at the swimming baths.
He said many of the children featured might never be identified and many people in York would wonder whether Oldham possessed images of them.
For Oldham, Alisdair Williamson said: "The history of this case is redolent of a young man who has struggled with his dark desires.”
Most of the sexual computer images had been low level and Oldham had used them as models for his own drawing.
His career was now "in ashes" but he had publicly faced the fact that he had a "terrible problem" and had help in getting the right treatment for his "sickness and illness".
Oldham wore a grey suit, light blue shirt and dark blue tie.
He showed no emotion as he was led away, watched by a public gallery packed with his friends and family.
Joe Cocker, City of York Safeguarding Children Board manager, said: “Richard Oldham has betrayed the trust of his pupils, their parents, his colleagues and profession. I would like to commend the commitment and professionalism of all those involved in the investigation for bringing him to justice.”