A paedophile teacher who lost his job after downloading graphic images of child abuse has failed to cut his prison sentence on appeal.
Blair Paton, 39, from Burntisland, was given a 12-month jail term in July this year after pleading guilty to possessing 1,700 indecent images.
Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard how more than 200 of the images depicted “the most serious” sexual abuse of children.
Some of the children captured in the images were as young as five.
Sheriff Ian Wallace also heard how Paton, who was last employed by Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council previously, searched for child sex abuse groups using a messaging app called Kik.
The court was told Paton had found them “exciting” and although he was “unsure” if he was sexually attracted to children, he thought he “must have been at that time”.
Passing sentence, Sheriff Wallace told him that jail was the only disposal available to him.
On Tuesday, lawyers acting for Paton told the Court of Criminal Appeal Sheriff Wallace should not have sent their client to prison.
Advocate John Brannigan told the virtual hearing there were “mitigating factors” in Paton’s case that meant a non-custodial sentence should have been considered.
Mr Brannigan told the court Paton’s marriage had broken down and he had lost his teaching career.
The lawyer also told the court Paton had undergone work with a specialist charity to tackle why he downloaded child abuse material.
However, Lord Doherty, who sat with colleague Lord Matthews, said Sheriff Wallace was correct.
‘The appeal is refused’
He said: “Mr Brannigan submitted that the mitigating factors were such that a non-custodial disposal should have been imposed.
“His offending had caused the breakdown of his marriage and the loss of his career.
“He was of previous good character; he was remorseful; he had engaged in activities with Stop It Now to seek to understand the harm caused by his offending.
“In our opinion, the sheriff took all of these matters into account.
“The offending was serious.
“We are not persuaded that a custodial sentence was not necessary nor are we convinced that the headline sentence was excessive in light of the nature and number of images, the period involved, and all of the aggravating factors that we have mentioned.
“The appeal is accordingly refused.”
During proceedings at Aberdeen Sheriff Court earlier this year, technical studies teacher Paton pled guilty to downloading and possessing child abuse material.
The court heard how Police Scotland’s child abuse investigations unit first received information Paton was accessing illegal content in July 2021.
Officers raided his home and seized his laptop and mobile phone and the sick material was recovered.
‘In the moment he found it exciting’
Depute procurator fiscal Carol Gammie said Paton, of Inchgarvie Avenue, had joined Kik in the summer of 2020 “to meet and chat to people”.
“He stated he had joined some groups and that within these groups other people were sharing pictures and that is how they had got onto his mobile phone.
“He stated that in the moment he had found it exciting.
“He admitted to searching for Kik chat groups relating to child abuse in order to view indecent images of children.
“He said he was unsure if he was sexually attracted to children but thought he must have been at that time.”
Paton, an Aberdeen University graduate, also told police he did not find the children he taught attractive and that he was not a danger to children.
After being cautioned and charged he told officers: “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry”.
The sheriff said: “You were also in a public position as a teacher and in a position of trust in relation to children, which is further aggravated by the fact that you were aware of the consequences of your actions and you are not a young man.”
Sheriff followed correct procedures
On Tuesday, Lord Doherty added: “Mitigating factors include a lack of previous convictions, remorse, previous good character and steps taken to address the offending.
“All of these aggravating and mitigating factors were present.
“The sheriff also regarded it as an aggravating factor that the appellant, a teacher, was in a position of trust and someone who was well aware of the harm to children caused by the making of indecent images.
“To the aggravating factors which the sheriff mentioned, there could have been added the age and vulnerability of the children depicted – some were as young as five – and the appellant’s attempt to dispose of or conceal the images by deleting them from his devices.”
During his career, Paton taught at St Machar, Bucksburn, Mackie and Meldrum academies.
Some of his former pupils described him as someone with an unusually keen interest in children’s lives both inside and outside of school.
They told the Press and Journal of occasions when Paton’s behaviour was “unprofessional” and “weird”.
It was claimed the father-of-one would friend pupils on Facebook and social media and even invited them to night-time music gigs.
A former pupil at Stonehaven’s Mackie Academy, who was 11 when Paton taught her in 2014, claimed Paton was the only teacher in her school who would physically touch her hand during lessons.
She said: “Being a tech teacher, he was quite hands-on with us.
“It’s not like he was abusive or anything, just sometimes a little bit too close to your comfort zone.
“Sometimes, to show us how to do measurements he’d place his hand on top of ours to show the measurement.
“It wasn’t the nicest of feelings because his hands kind of dwarfed ours when they moved ours.
“It made us feel sometimes a little bit intimidated.
“In my six years of being at Mackie, I don’t think I ever had a teacher other than Mr Paton take my hand and place it somewhere.”
Aberdeenshire Council has confirmed that no complaints were ever made during Paton’s employment with the local authority.
Aberdeen City Council refused to say whether any reports had been received.