Piano teacher from Hessle who filmed 'upskirting' videos asked girl, 8, to blow kisses to him

Jailed piano teacher Ben Thomas
Jailed piano teacher Ben Thomas. Credit: Humberside Police

A piano teacher from Hessle has been jailed after taking 'upskirting' pictures and videos of his pupils.

Ben Thomas, 30, also sent inappropriate messages to an eight-year-old girl including asking her to blow him a kiss.

Thomas, of Westbourne Grove, was jailed for two years after pleading guilty to taking indecent photographs and videos of children and possessing indecent photographs and videos of children.

Grimsby Crown Court heard how almost 2,000 of these were in the most serious category, with victims as young as three.

During sentencing, Recorder Kelly told Thomas: "The children don't seem real to you. The abuse these children suffered to enable these images to be made are real.

"For every image you downloaded, a child had to be sexually abused. You and people like you fuel the need for children to be sexually abused."

Thomas himself took 64 videos involving 16 of his students between June and July last year.

Some parents have told of their 'guilt' at allowing their children to be alone in his presence, with one saying her daughter now refused to wear a skirt or dress.

When teaching the children the piano - at a North Lincolnshire school, his home and their homes, with their parents also inside the property - Thomas would take out his mobile phone and record videos. None of the children realised what was happening.

Thomas was also handed a ten-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order which will prohibit him from using any device which accesses the internet.

Prosecuting, Nigel Clive QC told the court that Thomas was finally caught when the mother of one of the victims discovered inappropriate WhatsApp messages between him and her daughter, who was just eight years old at the time.

The court heard that the girl's piano lessons were supposed to last for half-an-hour, but over time these became 'longer and longer'.

Thomas would contact the girl via WhatsApp and send pictures and videos of his cats. He also asked her to send him a video of her 'blowing him a kiss'.

When the mother found the messages, she contacted Thomas and told him his messages were inappropriate and to stop contacting her daughter, which he did.

She then contacted Humberside Police, who arrested Thomas and seized his mobile phone and laptop.

On his devices, officers discovered 26,461 images and 445 videos in Categories A, B and C, all of which were "systematically stored".

In several Victim Personal Statements read out to the court, the victims' parents described how Thomas' crimes have affected their children.

One said: "For someone that age she is not trusting of people. She was such a confident girl but now she won't wear a skirt or a dress, even during the summer."

"She is less trusting of teachers and men. She is more suspicious of everyone and feels misled by this defendant. She is shocked that someone would take advantage," read another.

Mitigating, Alexander Leach QC said: "It was a descent into a world of internet porn that led to indecent images of children and culminated in the production of the indecent images of children.

"The most serious aggravating factors are the abuse of trust, the fact that the children were known to the defendant and the number of children.

"There was a profound abuse of trust and a damage to the confidence of these children."Sentencing, Recorder Kelly addressed Thomas: "The fallout does not simply remain with you recording images of them.

"Some of the parents have expressed how guilty they feel by allowing them to be in your presence.

"But it is not their fault, it is your fault alone. You fooled them into thinking you were trustworthy."

Detective Constable Becky McInnis from Humberside Police's Protecting Vulnerable People (PVP) Unit was the acting officer in this case.

"The actions of Ben Thomas cannot be described as anything other than deceitful," she said.

"He abused his position of trust preying on some of the most vulnerable members of our society who looked up to and trusted him.

"I am pleased he is now being punished for his unforgivable actions.

"I’d like to commend the bravery and the courage of his victims and their families throughout the entirety of the investigation and court proceedings.

"I hope the outcome will provide them with some comfort in knowing that, by having the courage and strength to come forward, they have undoubtedly prevented others falling victim to the actions of this man."

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