An IT technician at a £33,000 a year boarding school who downloaded child abuse images on to a school laptop was today spared jail.
Andrew Sutton was an IT technician at the exclusive St Leonards school in St Andrews, Fife, where day pupils pay fees of £13,596 a year and boarders £33,162 per annum.
He was arrested when police were handed “confidential information” that a computer at his house had accessed indecent images of children.
Illegal pictures were later found on a school owned Apple Mac laptop.
A spokesperson for the school – where pupils learn golf on the world famous Old Course – said Sutton had been suspended the day the allegations had come to light and that the school were “appalled by his behaviour”.
Fiscal depute Charmaine Gilmartin told Dundee Sheriff Court: “At the time of the investigation he worked as an IT engineer at a school and held a child PVG [Protecting Vulnerable Groups] disclosure certificate.
“During March 2017 cyber crime officers received confidential information that devices at his address contained indecent images of children.
“A search warrant was granted and at 7.45am on March 2 last year police attended his home and executed the warrant.
“Nobody was present so police attended the accused’s workplace.
“He co-operated with officers and returned with officers to his home.
“Two laptops were recovered at the home and a forensic analysis of one of then found it contained indecent images of children.
“File sharing software had been used to download two files indicative of indecent images.
“A number of downloaded files had names indicative of indecent content though they were no longer accessible.
“There were seven images at category A, two at category B and 29 at category C.
“There was also one category A video and one video at category C.
“It is not known when the files were downloaded and deleted and the dates of the charge are a range from when the laptop was manufactured and the date of the search.”
Sutton, 59, of St Michaels Drive, Cupar, pleaded guilty on indictment to taking or making indecent images of children by downloading them at his home address between February 1 2011 and March 2 2017.
Defence solicitor Douglas Williams said: “There were two laptops recovered and images were only found on one.
“The laptop referred to is actually the property of the school.
“He is no longer employed by the school and in fact effectively resigned his post to save further embarrassment for the school authorities.”
Sheriff Lorna Drummond QC imposed a community payback order with 240 hours unpaid work, 18 months supervision and conduct requirements around his contact with children.
She said: “It is obviously a serious matter to these images.
“Taking into account all the circumstances I’m persuaded I can deal with your case in line with the High Court case law and impose a community payback order as a direct alternative to custody.”
Sutton will also be on the sex offenders register for 18 months.
A spokeswoman for St Leonards School – whose alumni include double Wimbledon champion Kitty Godfree and Tony Blair’s former adviser Anji Hunter – said: “We were extremely shocked by the arrest of former employee Andrew Sutton, and are appalled by his behaviour.
“Andrew Sutton was employed as an IT Technician at St Leonards. He was a member of the PVG scheme, which is a mandatory requirement for all employees at the school.
“His PVG check was last reviewed 4 months prior to his arrest. In his role, he did not work directly with children.
“Following his arrest and an internal investigation, Mr Sutton was immediately suspended from his position of employment (in March 2017).
“The school cooperated fully with the Police Scotland Cyber Crime Unit who confirmed that none of his offences related to the school.
“The safety and wellbeing of our students is paramount and we continue to enforce robust safeguarding measures to ensure all appointed employees are entirely suitable.”