A former deputy head teacher at a London primary school who had pleaded guilty to paying and instructing teenagers in India to abuse younger children was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Wednesday.
Matthew Smith, 35, from East Dulwich in south London was arrested by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) in November last year after its investigators identified that he was sharing abuse material on the dark web and has now been sentenced at Southwark Crown Court in London.
According to the NCA, Smith was online at the time of his arrest, speaking to a teenage boy living in India and asking him to send sexual images of a younger child, in return for money. He also had dark web sites and forums open on his computer which were dedicated to child sexual abuse.
”Matthew Smith is a prolific offender and master manipulator, who coerced young men into abusing children on his behalf,” said Helen Dore, senior officer of the NCA.
”He constantly sought out opportunities to gain access to children, but was adept at hiding his sexual interest in them. He conducted his offending while working as a teacher and head of pastoral care — a deep betrayal of the trust placed in him.
“It’s clear Smith has absolutely no empathy for his victims and the harm he has caused them. He presents a very real and significant risk to children, but this investigation has ensured he will spend a long time in prison,” she said.
Smith is also subject to an indefinite sexual harm prevention order and has been placed on the sex offenders register for life. The NCA stressed that it is committed to operating online and overseas, working with global partners to ensure that children are safeguarded and offenders like Smith are brought to justice.
The agency’s investigators interrogated chat logs and financial transactions and were able to establish that Smith had paid that same teenager, and another also based in India, a total of GBP 65,398 to abuse children over a five-year period.
The chat logs showed that Smith would instruct the young men to perform sexual acts on boys and would send them images and videos as examples of ones he would like to receive in return.
Smith also gave one of them advice on how to befriend children and build their trust with a view to abusing them. He had spent various periods working in orphanages and NGOs across India between 2007 and 2014 and was later living in Nepal and working at a school.
The UK investigators found evidence of potential offending by Smith against children while he was working in India. The NCA shared information with the Indian authorities and said it continues to work with them in order to identify and safeguard victims.
Smith moved back to the UK in July 2022 and began working at a primary school in London in September that year, where he was a deputy head teacher and head of pastoral care. He was found to have posted an online advert at the time looking to secure a flat-share, in which he said he was a primary school teacher and could assist with childcare.
He was arrested before he could be taken up on his offer, the NCA said, adding that there is no evidence to suggest he committed offences against children based in Nepal or the UK.
Officers recovered over 120,000 indecent images of children, which Smith had saved on a laptop, SD card and on his phone. In June, the NCA reported that he had pleaded guilty to an initial five offences, including causing the sexual exploitation of a child under 13, and was remanded in custody in November 2022.
Earlier this year, he also pleaded guilty to a further 17 counts, including encouraging the rape of a child under 13, causing a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity, and arranging the sexual abuse of a child.
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