England has declared anyone who is convicted of viewing images of child pornography and abuse will be banned from teaching for life. The ban comes after Geoffrey Bettley, a 36-year-old teacher, was allowed to resume his career despite admitting that he viewed images of child abuse. Bettley was ordered to sign up for the Sex Offender Registry, but was allowed to return to the classroom because of his "excellent teaching."
"We want to ensure that in future anyone cautioned or prosecuted for offences related to child pornography is prohibited from teaching," said the Department for Education in a statement. "We are taking steps to revise the guidance the independent panel uses to make a decision on whether a teacher should be barred.”
The change in policy will not be retroactive, so Bettley will still be free to teach, The Telegraph reported.
“There is a very legitimate public concern that cases are being dealt with so leniently,” said Robert Buckland, a Conservative MP. "He should not be allowed to teach or be anywhere near children. I have grave concerns about this decision, it is an affront to common sense and to parents everywhere.”
Bettley had 143 images on his computer — assessed to be on "level one" on the scale for seriousness — when police seized the device. He downloaded another 46 more serious "level three" images, including scenes of child abuse, but the files had not been viewed.
Despite the seriousness of what police discovered, a panel recommended that Bettley be allowed to continue teaching.
A Department for Education official agreed.
“Although the findings in the case are serious ... I support the recommendation of the panel that a prohibition order should not be applied,” the official wrote.