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Recently the shocking news of Gareth Mellor broke in the media. Mellor was an assistant head teacher and safeguarding lead at a high school in Kettlethorpe High School, in Wakefield. He was tracked down by Nation Crime Agency (NCA) investigators through a Bitcoin payment for accessing indecent images of children.  

After being arrested, Mellor admitted to having more than 11,500 images and videos of child abuse. During the investigation, it was found that Mellor had downloaded and stored 520 images and videos classified as category A, the most serious level (penetrative). 615 found were category B (non-penetrative) and 10,450 were category C (erotic posing).  

It was also found that Mellor used his email address to set up accounts on other sites to try to acquire abuse materials. The NCA reported that the images and videos, not taken by Mellor, were mostly teenage girls. Mellor paid for indecent images of children via an encrypted cloud storage service, leading to his arrest at his home address, in May 2021. After the investigation was carried out, it was concluded that Mellors offending took place between 2014 and 2021. Following his arrest and while on bail, Mellor tried to access one of his accounts to delete evidence. 

Mellor has since been sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for two years at Leeds Crown Court. In addition, he was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work, made the subject of a 10-year sexual harassments prevention order, and ordered to take part in a sexual offending programme and rehabilitation activity. 

NCA operation manager Danielle Pownall said Mellor has been a “committed buyer and consumer of child abuse material”. She continued by stating that Mellor had “deeply betrayed” the trust he held as assistant head and safeguarding lead “through amassing a huge collection of material showing the horrific abuse of children.”  

Ms. Pownall also reported that Mellor had attempted to “conceal his activities by using cryptocurrency and encrypted storage services”. However, “this investigation was able to identify him as a committed buyer and consumer of child abuse material”. She concluded her statement by reiterating the NCA is “committed to tackling this criminality in all its forms, breaking the chain of supply and demand and protecting children from the most harmful offenders”.  

Tudor Griffiths, headteacher at Kettlethorpe High School released a statement saying they are “appalled” by the way he (Mellor) betrayed the school’s trust. Furthermore, that they were “sick he was able to hide in a position of responsibility”.  

Mr. Griffiths continued “Although the crimes committed by Gareth Mellor have absolutely no connection to our school community, we are appalled at the way he has betrayed the trust placed in him during his time at the school. The safeguarding check and procedure we, and all schools follow, did not identify any concerns. His ability to hide in a position of responsibility is shocking and upsetting.”  

‘Now, while it has been made clear that the videos and images had not been taken by Mellor, and that no children at Kettlethorpe High School have been directly involved with the images,  it is understandable that those aware of the case would find it I find it difficult to believe there was absolutely no connection or correlation.  Mellor had thousands of images of children a similar age to those he would have had access to every day. It is concerning that he would have built up a trusting relationship with children whereby they would have spoken with them 1-1; perhaps even about similar crimes to those he himself was perpetrating. 

Our top priority is to the children harmed by Mellor’s crimes. The NCA undoubtedly works hard to identify each child and to ensure they are safeguarded and given the ongoing psychological support they may need.  

However, looking forward, anyone working with children and young people must think about how and why Mellor was able to have access to children and what we can do to stop this happening again. Although the majority of those working with children do it because they want to help, and support children and young people, one can’t help but surmise that those with ill intent towards children, are likely to attempt to find work in which gives them access to them. And so, this case further highlights the need for us all to do more.  

As Mr Griffiths states, Kettlethorpe followed all procedures. As such, this is much bigger than one school. This goes as far as every organisation that cares for or has access to children needing to do more; because if it happened at Kettlethorpe High school it could happen anywhere. We simply cannot have individuals like Mellor having access to our children, even more so in a position in which he was responsible for keeping them safe.  

What can we do?  

  • Create a culture of whistleblowing and ensuring staff feel comfortable reporting on colleagues they may have concerns about. Often in cases like Mellors, other staff will have a feeling of unease. You must make sure there are policies and procedures in place to ensure this can happen.  
  • Similarly, making sure we create a culture in which children and young people know how to report a member of staff and feel able to do so, if they are made to feel uncomfortable. This should be then thoroughly investigated and addressed in an unbiased way.  
  • Ensure ‘Safer recruitment’ practices are being followed appropriately and consistently. 
  • Have a strong governing body in which all involved are aware of their roles and responsibilities. 
  • Put in place rigid filtering and monitoring processes, in line with KCSiE 2023.