A former primary school Deputy Head has been jailed for two years and nine months after pleading guilty to possessing indecent images of children and sending "obscene" messages.
James John Matthews (42), who had worked at St. John’s Primary School for nearly two decades, was sentenced in the Royal Court this morning.
In December 2019, he was suspended from his job after Police received information that he was suspected to have downloaded indecent images of children.
On 19 December 2019, Police searched his home, with Matthews also being interviewed that day.
In his interview, he denied having ever used applications to access the dark web, and responded with, "No, Christ no,” when asked if he had any indecent images of children on any of his devices.
Pictured: Matthews initially denied having any indecent images of children on any of his devices.
On Christmas Eve, the High-Tech Crime Unit found a message sent on Matthews’ iPhone with a graphic message about a seven-year-old girl, and another indicating an interest in indecent images of children, sent under the username of ‘@pandrews’.
That same day, Matthews was arrested for possessing indecent images of children. When he was questioned under caution, he gave “no comment” to all questions, and was released on conditional police bail.
On 5 May 2020, a report was produced, showing that after forensic analysis, 33 indecent images of children were recovered from deleted areas of the hard disk on Matthews’ Apple iMac Desktop, with 13 in Category A, 6 in Category B and 14 in Category C.
Deleted movie files, Dropbox activity and evidence of deleted Skype conversations provided evidence of Matthews’ sexual interest in children dating back to 2015. He also used the pseudonym ‘Paul Andrews’ on several profiles on this computer.
Pictured: Matthews was arrested on Christmas Eve 2019.
An application called ‘Kik’, which is noted for having secure end-to-end encryption, was found had been installed and uninstalled several times on Matthews’ iPhone too.
It was also discovered that he had had correspondence with a local registered sex offender, with one featuring an image of a young child, which, though not indecent itself, was accompanied by explicit sexual references.
On his laptop, were the following Google searches, dating to Friday 20 December 2019:
When he was asked on 11 May 2020 about the ownership and usage of the devices, as well as the name ‘Paul Andrews’, he once again replied “no comment.”
Matthews appeared before the Magistrate’s Court via telephone link on 14 May 2020 and indicated guilty pleas. He was later indicted in the Royal Court on 17 July 2020 where he entered guilty pleas to three counts of making indecent images of children.
This was then followed up with an indictment for the indecent messages on 24 July 2020, for which he entered into a guilty plea.
This morning, he appeared for sentencing before the Inferior Number.
Pictured: Matthews was sentenced this morning in the Royal Court.
Speaking following the sentencing, Police described the process of gathering evidence as "painstaking", adding that it took nearly five months of "intensive" work.
Detective Inspector Cathy Davison, the Senior Investigating Officer in this case, commented: “The States of Jersey Police are committed to thoroughly investigating sexual offences, current or historic.
"This includes using the highly sophisticated technology available to us to find, investigate and prosecute those using the dark corners of the internet to satisfy their deplorable desires.”
Given Matthews' role in education, Police also worked alongside the Children, Young People, Education and Skills Department on the case.
A Government spokesperson paid tribute to the headteacher and staff of St. John's School following the sentencing, saying: “This has been the most challenging of years for St John’s School and we pay tribute to the headteacher and staff for their professionalism throughout, and the parents and carers for the support they have given to their children and the school community.
“While the offences did not relate to the individual’s job at the school, it nonetheless had an impact on many and we hope that today’s sentencing helps to bring some closure to all those affected."
Pictured: St. John's School staff were praised for how they have managed during "the most challenging of years."
They continued: "When the allegations were made known to the Department, immediate and appropriate support was made available to the entire school community. At the same time, the individual concerned was immediately suspended while the Department co-operated fully with the police investigations.
"We acknowledge the effective, constructive and collaborative work between the Department for Children, Young People, Education and Skills and the States of Jersey Police during this criminal investigation.
"The Department and partner agencies will continue to fully support the school and its community as it moves forward to a new school year.
"We fully understand the community's justified disquiet and distress regarding this individual's abhorrent actions. Crimes of this nature are not tolerated in any community and the Department will continue to work with the appropriate agencies to ensure that our children remain safe and protected, which is our number one priority."
Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.
Once your comment has been submitted, it won’t appear immediately. There is no need to submit it more than once. Comments are published at the discretion of Bailiwick Publishing, and will include your username.