Teacher used spy camera to film pupils undressing

Jailed ... Simon Knowles

Jailed ... Simon Knowles

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A voyeuristic teacher who used secret spy cameras to film pupils undressing in his classroom has been jailed for four and a half years.

Simon Mark Knowles, 52, concealed tiny spy cameras in a pen and a shirt button, using them to film his young students as they changed for PE before posting the pictures online.

The teacher, who committed the crimes in Harrogate but later moved to Vernon Road, Bridlington, accidentally caught his own face on the camera. He was also found to have downloaded thousands of indecent images featuring children as young as three.

Jailing him for four-and-a-half years at York Crown Court last week, the Recorder of York Stephen Ashurst said: “You fantasised on the internet about what you wanted to do to these children. In the cold light of day, the content of these exchanges was quite appalling. To say there’s been a wholesale breach of trust would be a considerable understatement.”

Knowles pleaded guilty to 24 counts including making, distributing, and possessing indecent images and videos, as well as voyeurism.

Police had first been alerted to his “appalling” offending, said solicitors, after tracing images from an investigation in Surrey.

Searching his home, said prosecutor Alan Mitcheson, police found two computers, phones, and memory sticks, containing nearly 20,000 indecent images of children and 174 videos. Some of the images he downloaded from the internet were of the worst level, said Mr Mitcheson, featuring children aged just three to six years old.

Police also found three spy cameras, one he had made himself, one hidden in a pen and a third disguised as a shirt button.

And, it emerges, the school’s headteacher, clearing out the classroom after his arrest, found an adult sex toy and underwear hidden on site.

“He admitted using the cameras to film the children getting changed for PE and at the swimming baths,” said Mr Mitcheson. “He said he liked collecting images. None of the images of children from the school are indecent, but clearly they were taken for a sexual purpose.

“All of the parents have spoken of their concern about the impact it will have on their children and also of the breach of trust and sense of shock they feel about this man and they way he conducted himself when he was supposed to be looking after their children.”

Paul Smith, defending, pleaded with the judge to consider a reduced sentence. “The defendant is a man of previous good character,” he said. “Implicit in this case is that Mr Knowles has betrayed so many people around himself, he has effectively lost everything.

“He accepts that punishment is required. He’s a man who acknowledges his offending behaviour, albeit struggles to come to terms with it.

“He’s prepared to put his effort into the treatment programme which awaits him.”

Alongside the jail sentence, Knowles was made subject to a sexual offences prevention order, banned from working with children and put on the sex offenders’ register indefinitely. The school has not been named to protect the identity of the children.