Teacher struck off after traces of files containing indecent images of children discovered on his computer
Reporter: Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter
Date published: 29 July 2021
St Cuthbert's High School
A teacher has been struck off after evidence of files containing indecent images of children was discovered on his computer.
Alexander Peredruk, who taught at St Cuthbert’s RC High School in Rochdale, downloaded, received and viewed indecent images of children over a two year period between March 2016 and March 2018, Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) papers say.
The 32-year-old was found guilty of unacceptable professional misconduct and bringing the profession into disrepute by a panel of the TRA.
Following a virtual hearing – which he did not attend – Peredruk was barred from teaching indefinitely and is not entitled to a review period due to the ‘seriousness of the allegations proven against him’.
The panel concluded that – while his activities did not occur at school – pupils could potentially be exposed to, or influenced by, his behaviour ‘in a harmful way’. This was ‘incompatible with the teaching profession’, the panel said.
The decision notice reads: “The behaviours demonstrated by Mr Peredruk show a clear failure to safeguard and protect children’s well-being in accordance with the statutory framework which underpins the profession.
“Whilst pupils at the school were, to the panel’s knowledge, unharmed, pupils and children at other schools and communities were harmed.”
Peredruk began teaching chemistry at the school in 2015, papers say.
In April 2018, GMP received intelligence from the National Crime Agency (NCA) that a person at his address was believed to be using the internet to download indecent images of children, TRA documents add.
Peredruk was interviewed by the police in October 2018 having resigned from his position at the school on 31 August 2018, papers say.
No further action was taken by the police, but a detective at GMP’s Sexual Crime Unit gave verbal evidence to the hearing into his conduct, the TRA added.
‘Witness A’ , told how a warrant was obtained to raid Peredruk’s home, where a number of devices were seized and which were then subject to forensic digital analysis.
A black computer tower contained evidence of 11 deleted files with names ‘indicative of suspected indecent images of children’, papers say.
While the original file contents and materials were not found, their ‘footprint’ remained in place, the TRA said.
The panel heard that a number of the file names were acronyms known by police to refer to explicit sexualised images of children. All 11 included sexually explicit terms involving children.
Witness A told the hearing how familiarity with these terms was indicative of someone who ‘knows about and/or how to search for indecent images of children’.
They advised it would be very unusual for files containing material other than indecent images of children to be named in this way.
The filenames located on the computer would not easily be found in standard internet searches or used to label innocent material.
The witness added: “Such references and file names are proactively searched for on the dark web and in messenger groups where indecent images of children are shared and downloaded. They cannot be stumbled across.
“The language used would not be known to the reasonable person. The sexually explicit nature of the filenames are routinely seen by GMP in their investigations and are used within these networks/communities and that such file names will in most instances include sexually explicit images and videos of children.”
Forensic cleaning software was also found on the teacher’s device.
The panel was told how it was not unusual to identify such software during the course of investigations within the Sexual Crime Unit, but it was unusual for a reasonable user to use such software.
Witness A advised how it was ‘commonly used by offenders who access indecent images of children’ – and was why only the ‘footprint’ of the 11 files remained on the computer.
The panel found this evidence ‘compelling’ and that it ‘demonstrated an intention by Peredruk for his actions to remain undetected to enable his conduct to continue’.
It was also found that his actions were deliberate and sexually motivated – and that there was no evidence to suggest that he was acting under duress.
The panel recommended the secretary of state ban Peredruk from teaching via a prohibition order without provision for a review period – and this was accepted.
A decision notice issued by Sarah Buxcey states that Peredruk is ‘prohibited from teaching indefinitely and cannot teach in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or 19 children’s home in England.
‘Furthermore, in view of the seriousness of the allegations found proved against him, I have decided that Mr Peredruk shall not be entitled to a review period’.
Peredruk has a right of appeal to the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court within 28 days from the date he is given notice of the order.
What the school says:
David Shields, headteacher at St Cuthbert’s RC High School, said: “Once information came to light we acted swiftly, in line with our procedures. We are very clear on our commitment to safeguarding and our expectations of all staff.
“As is made clear in the report from the Teaching Regulation Agency the incidents took place outside of school.”
What the council says:
Steve Kay, assistant director for early help and schools at Rochdale council, said: “We note and support the action taken by the school and the Teaching Regulations Agency and are grateful that this matter has now been brought to a conclusion.”
The professional conduct panel of the Teaching Regulation Agency convened on June 3 by virtual hearing.
The decision of the panel and secretary of state was published on Wednesday (July 29).
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