August 2022

School IT worker downloaded and shared child sex abuse photos and videos

A trusted school IT worker downloaded and shared vile photos and videos of children as young as two being sexually abused.

Matthew Bateman’s online activities only came to light after he arranged to meet what he thought was a 14-year-old girl for a drive in his car and a burger.

In fact the defendant was communicating with members of a paedophile hunter group who confronted him at the agreed rendezvous point in a local park.

Swansea Crown Court heard that Bateman downloaded the child sex abuse images over a period of almost a decade, and a judge said it was troubling that the defendant had been in possession of such material while a valued member of staff at the school and mixing on a daily basis with pupils.

Megan Jones, prosecuting, told the court that in February last year Bateman contacted what he believed to be a 14-year-old girl on the Kik app.

The defendant began exchanging messages with the contact, and during the conversation he talked about meeting the girl, taking her for a “spin” in his car, and visiting a McDonald’s burger restaurant together.

In fact the profile he was communicating with was an account being run by a paedophile hunter group.

The Carmarthenshire man arranged to meet the supposed schoolgirl in Drefach Park on February 23, and when he turned up he was confronted by the people running the decoy account.

The police were called and 40-year-old was arrested, later giving a “no comment” interview.

Miss Jones said Bateman subsequently rang Ysgol Gyfun y Strade in Llanelli where he worked in the IT department and told the headteacher he had “done something stupid” and been speaking to an underage girl. The defendant no longer works at the school.

The court heard that a search warrant was executed at Bateman’s home address, and electronic devices were seized and examined. Police found a total of 299 indecent images of Category A showing the most extreme kinds of sexual abuse along with 255 of Category B and 417 of Category C.

Some of the photos and videos showed toddlers as young as two being sexually abused, and they had been downloaded over a period of almost a decade.

The court heard there was also evidence the defendant had shared a small number of images of all three categories with others.

The prosecutor said the defendant had not been charged with any offences in relation to the communication with the decoy account being operated by paedophile hunters.

Mathew Bateman, of Crwbin, Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire, had previously pleaded guilty to making – that is possessing – indecent images of Category A, B and C, and to distributing indecent images of Category A, B and C when he appeared in the dock for sentencing. .

Matt Murphy, for Bateman, said his client’s conviction had already had a significant impact on his life, leading not only the loss of his job but also to the ending of his relationship with his partner. 

Judge Geraint Walters told Bateman that the children in the photographs and videos he downloaded were not actors but were real youngsters being sexually abused. He said he was troubled by the fact that Bateman had such material while being a valued member of staff at a school and mixing daily with youngsters.

The judge noted that Bateman maintained he did not derive any sexual gratification from the images – something the judge said courts routinely heard in such cases and always treated with scepticism – but he said what “gives the lie” to that version of events was that the defendant had arranged to meet a 14-year-old girl.

With a one-third discount for his guilty pleas Bateman was sentenced to a total of 14 months in prison comprising eight months for the possession charges and 14 months for the distribution charges to run concurrently.

He will serve up to half that period in custody before being released on licence to serve the remainder in the community.

He will be a registered sex offender for the next 10 years, and was made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order for the same length of time which is designed to control his access to the internet.