Nov 2007

Outrage as paedophile teacher who taught Princess Beatrice walks free

Princess Beatrice’s history teacher escaped jail yesterday after pleading guilty to grooming a 12-year-old girl for sex in an internet chatroom.

Campaigners expressed outrage that 43-year-old Richard Findley was given only a suspended sentence.

Inciting a child to engage in sexual activity carries a maximum jail term of 14 years.

Nick Stevens, head of the Met’s Paedophile Unit, said that those who groom on the net often go on to abuse children.

He said: “It is concerning when you get someone who is a pillar of the community, then when you scratch below the surface there is a predatory paedophile.”

The history master pretended he was a teenager called Suzie in a chatroom to lure a girl into talking to him. But the “child” was actually a detective from Scotland Yard’s paedophile unit.

Findley, a married father of three, was sentenced to 12 months’ jail suspended for two years.

Judge Christopher Hardy said: “It seems to me that what you were doing here was indulging yourself in a dangerous and dirty fantasy world.

“There wasn’t any actual victim in this case and I’ve taken into account there wasn’t any real attempt over the four months, apart from one phone call, to turn illusion into reality.”

The judge ordered that Findley sign on to the sex offenders’ register. He was also banned from working with children until further notice.

Michele Elliott, of child protection charity Kidscape, said: “Findley didn’t know it was a police officer, he thought it was a child. And he’s a teacher – that makes his crime even worse. If he hadn’t been caught, who knows what could have happened to another child.”

Findley, who has three young children, started his grooming campaign in July last year, two months before he started his job at St George’s in Ascot, Berkshire. Princess Beatrice attended the independent boarding school, close to Windsor Great Park, from 2000 until June this year.

She was told of Findley’s arrest in January as she was preparing to return after the Christmas holidays. In the days before his apprehension, Findley had started to send sexually explicit text messages to the ‘girl’ from his mobile phone.

Friends of the princess said she had been “shocked and horrified” by the news. Findley had taught Beatrice during the autumn term, when she was head girl of the 300-pupil school.

She had liked and respected him enormously, the friends said.

After his arrest, Findley denied contacting the “girl” but later admitted having online conversations with her.

He also claimed he thought she was an adult pretending to be a child – what he described as “a Britney Spears scenario”.

Judge Hardy told Findley at Southwark Crown Court: “I take that with a pinch of salt. But I accept you were indulging yourself in a fantasy world.”

He said he accepted that Findley, who now lives in Bournemouth, had been under intense pressure in his personal life, in particular because his young son was seriously ill.