October 23 2014 Latest news:
by Tom Marshall
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Camden education chiefs have sought to reassure parents after a Catholic friar, who taught at one of the borough’s schools, admitted downloading thousands of sickening child abuse images.
Gospel Oak friar Timothy Gardner, described as a “senior figure” in Catholic education by the council, is facing jail after he pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court on Monday to 10 counts of making indecent images of children.
He was found with 5,005 pictures. Some were graded at levels four and five, the most extreme categories, which can include scenes of bondage and rape.
Gardner, 41, of St Dominic’s Priory Church, Southampton Road, taught religious education (RE) at Maria Fidelis Catholic School for six years from 2006 to 2012.
Headteacher Helen Gill said she was “shocked and saddened” by the revelations, but that none of the allegations related to his time at the school, in Phoenix Road, Somers Town.
“Since learning of the charges I have written to parents to provide this reassurance and we will, of course, provide necessary support to pupils and parents if required,” she added.
The collection was discovered when police searched his home at St Dominic’s and seized computers in August, after receiving information from the public.
His barrister, Louise Sweet, told the court he was of previous good character but said reports were needed regarding an alcohol problem.
Camden Council said it had launched a safeguarding investigation as soon as it learnt of the allegations, to “reassure ourselves and parents that no wrongdoing happened whilst [he was] working in Camden”.
The council said Gardner had undergone a full CRB check and there were no doubts about his behaviour during his time at Maria Fidelis, nor was there any suggestion that the images related to people from Camden.
At the time of his arrest, Gardner was working full time for the Catholic Education Service (CES), which works closely with the country’s Catholic schools, and had been involved in lobbying the government to ensure that RE remained a priority in schools.
The chairman of the CES, the Right Rev Malcolm McMahon, said: “I and the members of staff of the CES are deeply upset and troubled at the news of these internet offences by Fr Gardner.
“Working with statutory agencies, the church will continue to do all it can to ensure the safety of all vulnerable people in our society.”
Bishop Sherrington, chairman of the Westminster Diocesan Education Commission, said: “I endorse the Bishop McMahon’s statement and offer prayers and support to those pupils and staff who trusted Fr Gardner and are shocked by his actions.”
Gardner will be sentenced on March 31.