‘Incredibly distressing’: Police, education department failed to stop man offending in schools

‘Incredibly distressing’: Police, education department failed to stop man offending in schools

August 30, 2023

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Questions remain over how a man who this week pleaded guilty to a string of offences that include taking indecent photos of children in primary and secondary schools across Perth, was allowed to continue offending despite a complaint being made and police involvement.

The man, who cannot be named after a court order was approved to protect his identity, was found by police to have downloaded thousands of photos of children from 36 schools across Perth. He had taken hundreds of his own indecent photos of young children at 14 schools and downloaded and kept over 10,000 high-grade child exploitation images.

The man retained his police clearance and Working with Children Check.Credit: Istock

The Perth District Court this week heard how the man – who had a Working with Children Check and a National Police Certificate – was questioned by police in November 2019 after he approached a boy who was alone at his primary school, and asked if he could take photos of the child.

The man’s employer – which has contracts to service IT systems in public, private and Catholic schools across WA – was also made aware of what happened and the offender was questioned by the CEO and general manager of the company.

The CEO said he put the allegations to the man.

“He was shocked,” the CEO told the court on Monday.

“He responded that he would quit. We said, ‘if you believe you’re innocent why would you quit?’

“We said it would be an issue we could work through.”

The company bosses scrolled through the offender’s phone and found no photos of children whatsoever.

But police told the court the offender had two separate phones, one for work and one for personal use.

The offender was asked by his employers to write down his version of events which was then forwarded to the school involved.

The man was kept out of schools by his bosses at the company for “two or three months”, with the CEO testifying that there was no police involvement after their initial interview. He told the court they were “kept in limbo”, and eventually decided to place the offender back into schools as it was believed the incident was an isolated misunderstanding that went no further.

It is understood that WA Police informed the Department of Education about their investigations into the man, but the head of the Education Department says the man was sent back to work in schools without the department’s knowledge.

“As soon as the Department was first made aware of the initial complaint in November 2019, he was removed from schools,” WA Department of Education director general Lisa Rodgers said in a statement.

“The external contractor continued to hold a Working With Children Check that had been obtained personally, through until 23rd April 2020 and on this basis in 2020, his employer allowed him to recommence work.

“The Department was not informed.”

Rodgers said the fact that the man who has now pleaded guilty to what she called “appalling offences” was allowed to work in schools once again, where he continued his offending against children, was “incredibly distressing”.

She said her department had taken steps to ensure this could not happen again.

The way contractors were dealt with has been reviewed and improved, she said. The police status of every network systems integrator provider and their staff had been reviewed and letters had been issued to providers ensuring compliance.

Complaints against contractors would now be handled in the same manner, and with the same oversight, as direct employees of the department.

Rodgers said she and police had met with all the school principals affected. She also communicated directly with parents and a helpline was put in place for anyone involved needing access to psychologists.

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