A former assistant headteacher has been spared an immediate prison term after pleading guilty to accessing thousands of child abuse images.
Gareth Mellor, 43, was in charge of safeguarding at Kettlethorpe High School, Wakefield, during the seven years he committed the offences between 2014 to 2021.
Leeds Crown Court heard Mellor came to the attention of officers from the National Crime Agency after making Bitcoin payments for indecent images of children via an encrypted cloud storage service.
After email addresses were linked to the defendant, officers executed a search warrant at his home in May 2021 and Mellor was arrested later that day.
Jessica Lister, prosecuting, said officers managed to recover a “significant amount” of illegal material despite Mellor’s attempts to get rid of evidence.
A total of 520 category A images – the most serious – were found along with 619 category B and 10,450 category C pictures.
The majority of the images were of females aged 12 and over but some were as young at eight.
Mellor, now of Pennycroft Road, Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, pleaded guilty to three counts of making indecent child images.
Mellor was suspended from his job after being arrested and officially dismissed in December 2021.
He told officers he had a sexual interest in females aged 18 to 21 and intended to buy legal pornography. However, he accepted some of the images were illegal and he had viewed them.
While none of his offences relate to any children at the school, Mellor also admitted that he had searched social media for females he had taught but said it was “not in a sexual way.”
The defendant told officers he had been blackmailed by the person he bought the images from and had paid them between £1,500 and £2,000.
Robert English, mitigating, said his client had not offended since his arrest and had attended a programme designed to prevent him re-offending.
The court heard Mellor had been working as a forklift truck driver but was sacked following media coverage after he pleaded guilty to the offences.
The barrister continued: “I do not think he can have any complaint about that, but it did expose him to a considerable amount of opprobrium.
“He is ashamed and he is genuinely remorseful. His reputation has been destroyed very publicly. His friends have deserted him, he has lost his job and he is getting divorced.”
Mellor was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years.
He was ordered to complete a 43-day sex offender treatment programme, ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid work and was placed on the sex offender register for ten years.
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