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Retired Gateshead teacher convicted of indecent images failed to tell police he had a new computer


A retired teacher with a disturbing sexual interest in young boys broke a court order by failing to tell police he bought a new computer.

John Burns, who taught at a high school, has been caught twice with images of child abuse.

As a result, he was placed on a Sexual Injury Prevention Order in an attempt to control his illegal urges.

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One of the conditions was that he had to notify the police within three days of purchasing any internet-enabled device.

But when officers visited his home in Gateshead in January to do a risk review, he told them he had purchased a computer tablet about six weeks earlier, which he had not told them about before.

Although nothing illegal was found there, this is the fourth time he has broken such an order and he is described as having a “nonchalant attitude” towards the restrictions.

Today the 76-year-old man, who admitted to violating the Sexual Injury Prevention Order, was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for two years, at Newcastle Crown Court. He must also be in a sex offender treatment program.

It was on January 31 that police visited him at Oakwood Avenue, Gateshead, and asked him to make any devices he had available for inspection.

He gave them a tablet and said they might not know it, telling them he bought it from Amazon over Christmas to video call his sister.

Sentencing him, Judge Robert Adams said: “The probation officer said you had a nonchalant demeanor and didn’t seem to take him seriously.

“You are a retired high school teacher and you want to work to help the community and families, which worries the author of the probation report given your interest in young teens.

“You say you manage to contain your unhealthy interest in young teens. “

The judge added, “This was a willful breach, you knew you had to report the existence of the device.

“There is no evidence that you used it for anything you shouldn’t have done and that was for a relatively short period of time.

“There is a substantial history of disobeying orders.”

The court heard he was convicted of nine indecent image production offenses in 2014 and obtained a three-year community order.

In 2017, he received a six-month suspended prison sentence for violating a sexual offense prevention order.

Then, in May 2018, he received a nine-month suspension for two years for making indecent images of children and again violating the order. He received a ten-year Sexual Injury Prevention Order on this occasion, which he has now broken.

Chris Knox, defending, said he was a “retired schoolmaster” who lives alone and has been at the same address for over 50 years.

He added that he did not hide the device, but simply failed to tell the police about it.

He told the court: “He retired 19 years ago, there is no question of him putting his children in danger. He retired at 57 after a perfectly flawless and appropriate career.”

Mr Knox added: “He is not a man who rebels against court orders, he is best described as having hesitated.

“There was nothing on it that shouldn’t have been on it.

“I appreciate that his criminal record is horrible and I can understand why Your Honor might say he needs to be stamped in order for him to comply with the court order.”

Mr Knox said Burns was no longer a photographer and his life was “quite short on purpose now”.

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