Former East Ham headteacher struck off over online child abuse footage allegations

Hartley Primary School in East Ham. Picture: Ellie Hoskins

Hartley Primary School in East Ham. Picture: Ellie Hoskins - Credit: Archant

A former primary school headteacher who allegedly paid for a service that live streams child sex abuse in the Philippines has been barred from the classroom for life.

Paul McNeil allegedly paid a Filipino contact in order to orchestrate live online footage of children being abused while he was headteacher at Hartley Primary School in Hartley Avenue, East Ham, according to a National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) investigation.

The 53-year-old was also found to have used Skype to send indecent messages as part of a role play game in which he said he was a father while the person he messaged pretended to be his 15-year-old son.

McNeil was investigated by police although no criminal charges were ever brought against him.

However, a member of the Metropolitan Police did provide evidence at recent hearings to the NCTL, the professional body which struck him off earlier this month.

Scotland Yard was told of the allegations in January 2014 by Canadian police who had conducted an investigation into a Canadian company, Azov Films.

They said McNeil had ordered 13 DVDs containing indecent sexual images of children between September 25, 2008 and December 14, 2009.

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The DVDs were not found by detectives when they raided his home on May 19, 2014 but an Acer laptop containing online Skype conversations was identified.

In addition, McNeil’s files showed credit payments to the Filipino suspect and images of school children on six camcorder tapes, 19 DVDs and 21 VHS tapes. More than 1,000 images were also on his computer.

McNeil was suspended by Hartley Primary School that same month. He had taught there since 2002.

After the police investigation ended in September 2014, he was formally dismissed by the school who referred the matter to the NCTL.

Alison Walsh, the investigating panel’s chair, said McNeil “was identified” as paying a Filipino person suspected of arranging live online child abuse.

She said: “Mr McNeil was interviewed by the police on May 19, 2014 and again on October 9, 2014.

“Throughout both interviews, Mr McNeil exercised his right of silence. No criminal charges were brought against Mr McNeil.”

She added: “The panel notes that the allegations took place outside of the education setting.

“However, as a teacher (indeed a headteacher) the responsibility for safeguarding the interests and well-being of all children is paramount.

“His actions were fundamentally incompatible with this expectation of professionals working with children.”

McNeil was also said to have “demonstrated limited insight into the consequences of his actions”.

A spokeswoman for Newham Council, on behalf of the school’s governing body, said: “When these serious allegations came to light and following a number of investigations, the school’s governing body dismissed McNeil.

“The council’s safeguarding team and the school worked with the police throughout their investigations and when McNeil could not be prosecuted, they referred this matter to National College of Teaching and Leadership.

“The school’s actions have seen this former headteacher banned from teaching for life.”