History teacher at Abbeywood Community School in Bristol fantasised about underage sex and was caught with child abuse pictures
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A history teacher fantasised about sexually abusing a teenage girl and downloaded hundreds of indecent images of children, a court heard.
Paedophile Tom Ivey, who has changed his name to Sam Thomas, was arrested after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the US informed Avon and Somerset Police that he was uploading child abuse images online.
The 42-year-old father of two teenagers was working as a history teacher at Abbeywood Community School – a secondary school in Stoke Gifford, Bristol – at the time of his offending. At Bristol Magistrates’ Court on Monday morning Thomas was given a suspended prison sentence after admitting possession of hundreds of child abuse images at an earlier hearing.
Prosecutor Jeremy Oliver told the court today a forensic examination of his Samsung mobile phone uncovered 436 child abuse photographs and videos. The images were of girls aged between 13 and 17 posing naked and in a sexualised manner.
There was also evidence of Thomas communicating with others about a 14-year-old relative days before his arrest in October 2022. He claimed to have sexually abused his niece – but police made enquiries and confirmed that the child mentioned was fictional.
“There is no evidence to show it was a niece and it was simply fantasy talk”, Mr Oliver told the court. He added that there were “many, many” pages of exhibits – including a list of search terms used, which included ‘teens’, ‘girls’, ‘incest’ and many more.
Méabh McGee, defending, said her client is “deeply, deeply remorseful for his actions” and is “ashamed and disappointed at what he has done”. She said that Thomas’s main concern is the impact on his wife and two children – aged 13 and 15 – who have knowledge of proceedings.
“His whole world has been turned upside down by his own actions”, Ms McGee said, adding that he has resigned from his job as a teacher and now works a night shift in an Amazon warehouse, and has moved out of the family home. She said that “the hope for this family is that they can be reunited under one roof, that is the hope from Mr Thomas and his wife”.
Ms McGee said he has completed the Lucy Faithful programme and has a Stop So therapist. She said that his wife has also completed a course about supporting sex offenders.
District Judge Lynne Matthews said: “It’s a real nightmare for parents, isn't it, that their kids’ schoolteacher has a sexual interest in children. Clearly you’ll never teach again, but you are assessed as posing a medium risk of serious harm, and that’s to female children specifically – those aged 13 to 18. I do find it an aggravating feature that you were a schoolteacher… and once public, it will cause real concern to parents.”
Thomas was charged with possession of 10 Category B images, 425 Category C images and one Category B video from the internet.
Judge Matthews blasted the Crown Prosecution Service for failing to charge Thomas with distributing indecent images after his admissions in interview. Sentencing Thomas, of High Street, Cam, Dursley, Gloucestershire, she handed him a 20-week prison sentence suspended for two years. He was told to complete 40 rehabilitation activity days and must comply with a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for five years.
In a statement following his guilty pleas on 14 November, a spokesperson for Abbeywood Community School said: “As soon as we learned of Tom Ivey’s arrest, he was suspended from his role at the school. Since then, we have been liaising with the relevant authorities. The offences do not relate to his employment at Abbeywood Community School and as the matter is subject to court proceedings, it is not appropriate to make any further comment. The safety and well-being of our students and staff is our main priority and we are offering any support they may need at this difficult time.”