BBC News

Indecent images teacher Geoffrey Bettley cleared to work again

image captionA professional conduct panel ruled Geoffrey Bettley did not pose a risk to children

A religious education teacher sacked for possessing indecent images of children should be allowed to return to work in schools, a panel has ruled.

Geoffrey Bettley, 36, was suspended from a West Yorkshire school in December 2010 after police found nearly 200 child abuse images on his computer.

He accepted a police caution and was dismissed by the school.

A professional conduct panel has now ruled the teacher does not "represent a risk to children or young people".

In its judgement, the National College for Teaching and Leadership panel said the images viewed by Mr Bettley were "not at the most serious end" of the scale used to categorise the severity of images of child sex abuse.

His behaviour did not show a "deep-seated attitude which leads to harmful behaviour", it ruled.

Mr Bettley was employed as an RE teacher at St Mary's Catholic School in Menston, from September 2001 to December 2011.

He visited a website in March 2009 where he viewed six child abuse images, according to the panel's ruling.

Shipley MP Philip Davies has called on the education secretary to explain why he ratified the decision to reinstate Mr Bettley.

Speaking in the House of Commons, he said: "I'm sure you will appreciate many parents will be deeply disturbed someone who has been convicted of downloading child porn should be allowed to teach again.

"Can we have a statement from the Education Secretary so he can explain what on earth he was thinking about when he allowed this person to teach again?"

Sex offenders register

Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, said Mr Bettley should "absolutely not" be allowed to teach again.

He said: "He didn't just access these once, he was accessing it for two or three years."

Mr Saunders said that even in so-called "low level" images, the children pictured were still victims of abuse.

"So I am very, very unconvinced that a reference to these things being only low-level is somehow mitigation against sanctions that should prevent this man from ever going near our children in a classroom again," he said.

image captionGeoffrey Bettley was employed at St Mary's Catholic Comprehensive School from 2001 to 2011

When his computer was seized by police in December 2010, 143 images were found to be at level one of the Copine scale, the least severe on a scale where 10 is described as the most serious.

A further 46 images considered to be at level three, surreptitiously taken photographs in "safe" environments showing varying degrees of nakedness, were found but had not been opened, the panel said.

Mr Bettley was cautioned for the offence of possessing an indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph of a child and placed on the sex offenders register for two years, according to the ruling.

A report from Leeds Children and Young People's Social Care in September 2011 had also concluded that Mr Bettley posed little risk, the panel added.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We keep the process under review because of legal complexities and we are examining whether this case was handled correctly."