A former Eton College teacher has been jailed after committing the “grossest breach of trust” by sexually touching students during night-time visits to their bedrooms at the prestigious boarding school.
Matthew Mowbray also downloaded hundreds of indecent images of children, as well as superimposing pupils’ faces onto the naked bodies of unknown children on his computer.
He entered boys’ rooms late at night on the pretext of discussing schoolwork before touching them for his own “sexual gratification”, his trial at Reading Crown Court had heard.
The 49-year-old father closed his eyes and bowed his head as he stood in a suit in the dock to be sentenced on Thursday.
He was jailed for a total of five years for 15 offences.
Mowbray, of Locks Heath, Southampton, had pleaded guilty to six counts of making indecent images of children and one count of voyeurism in relation to a series of covertly filmed images showing a boy getting dressed at the school near Windsor in Berkshire.
But he denied nine counts of sexual activity with a child against four boys and one girl over a period of several years.
He was found guilty last month on eight of the charges and not guilty of one count of sexual activity with a child against a girl.
Addressing him, Resident Judge Heather Norton QC said: “You knew that what you were doing was wrong but you continued to take the opportunities afforded to you to abuse children for your own gratification.”
She said in his position at Eton he had “ready access to teenage boys who relied upon you, looked up to you and trusted you”.
She added: “In what was the grossest breach of trust, over a period of years and in respect of a number of children, you breached their trust, the trust of the families who placed their children in your care, and the trust of the school who had appointed you.”
Victim impact statements were submitted as part of the sentencing hearing but none were read aloud on the instruction of the victims who did not want details shared, the court heard.
The judge said Mowbray’s actions had “brought discomfort and confusion at the time” to the victims, and had lasting effects as they grew up including depression, anxiety, stress, and physical and psychological distress.
The former geography teacher’s trial heard that one of the victims told police Mowbray “put his head on my arm, basically laid down on me without putting his legs up”, while another said he felt “really uncomfortable and just froze” when the defendant would “rub his hand up and down my thigh over and over”.
The victim said Mowbray came into the room “in the dark” and sat on his bed while chatting to him.
The judge said the nature of Mowbray’s actions, which she acknowledged were at “the bottom of the scale for this type of offending”, had allowed him to “get away with it for so long”.
She added: “Had you committed a more overt sexual act, it is far more likely that a child would have reported it.
“As it was, they thought it was weird, odd, unusual, uncomfortable – but not such that they would risk their school career by reporting the person who had so much influence over their lives.”
The judge paid tribute to the “courage” of those who had given evidence, and made special mention of one boy who she said had raised the alarm due to concerns for a friend.
She said: “It was because he acted on his sense of what was right and what was wrong that Matthew Mowbray’s actions came to light.”
Defence counsel Sallie Bennett-Jenkins QC said Mowbray accepted his actions were “a gross breach of trust” and had expressed a “deep and genuine sense of remorse and regret”.
The judge also made a 10-year sexual harm prevention order.