March 2008


AN AWARD-WINNING school teacher from Carlisle has admitted downloading more than 1,000 pornographic images of children on to his home computer.

Stephen Burns, 33, tried to justify his actions by saying that he tried to download pornographic pictures in which children were smiling, so they did not appear to be suffering.

But Burns, who now lives with his parents in Whinnie House Road, Morton West, Carlisle, was given a nine-month jail term, suspended for two years, after his barrister told the court that he felt ashamed of himself.

Police arrested Burns at his home in Frederick Street, Luton, last September after a tip off from his then-partner.

When detectives examined his computer, they found 1,146 indecent images of children, some of who were as young as four.

And some of the pornography fell into the most serious category, Luton Crown Court heard. Burns admitted 17 counts of possessing indecent images of children.

The court heard how he was a teacher at a Bedfordshire school where he won a best teacher award.

There had never been reports of him abusing children or acting inappropriately, but he told the police he developed an urge to download child pornography.

William McGivern, prosecuting, said: “He started searching the internet for porn and soon came across the websites with images of children when ordinary porn bored him. He became caught up in it and could not stop, even though he knew he could lose his job and go to prison.”

Burns was of previous good character and defending, Susan Meek said that he was full of remorse.

“He was viewing the images as if they were a fantasy world and never thought of the children as real,” she said.

“He never acted improperly when he was at the school and was well-liked with a good teaching record.“

Judge Barbara Mensah told Burns that he was right to feel ashamed.

She said: “These are not victimless crimes and involve the exploitation of children who are abused for people like you to indulge in.

“By downloading the images you are encouraging the exploitation. The children would not have been smiling as you said they were. They would have been extremely distressed. You should feel disgusted.”

Judge Mensah suspended the nine-month jail sentence because Burns had pleaded guilty and was a man of previous good character.

She also fined him £882, gave him a supervision order for two years and ordered him to complete a sex offenders’ programme.

He will be on the Sex Offenders’ register for 10 years and given a sexual offenders’ prevention order which bans him from being alone with a child under 16.