Page last updated at 15:44 GMT, Saturday, 16 January 2010

Paedophile ran teaching website

By Hannah Richardson
Education reporter, BBC news

Daniel Kinge
Samuel Kinge changed his name by deed poll from Daniel

A convicted paedophile and former teacher was free to run a major UK education website, the BBC has learned.

Samuel Kinge, 28, from Evesham, was last week jailed for a second time for downloading abusive images of children.

He had been running the Sparklebox teaching and parenting resource website used in thousands of schools.

This was blocked in some areas after internet safety officials discovered who was running it and that there had been some "worrying interactivity".

The case appears to expose a potential loophole in how paedophiles could potentially access young children through technology.

I personally think that someone with a previous conviction of this nature shouldn't be allowed to access children via the internet
David Wright
e-Safety Officer
South West Grid for Learning

A spokesman for the Department for Schools and Families denied this was the case, saying all convicted child sex offenders were banned from having direct contact with children and all their online activity was monitored by police.

Internet safety officials have told the BBC they became concerned after a blog and pictures of children also started appearing on the Sparklebox website, which offers colourful teaching materials such as numeracy posters for teachers and children's bedroom posters for parents.

It led officials responsible for ensuring the safety of internet technology in schools in south-west England to block the site.

E-safety officer at the South West Grid for Learning Trust David Wright said: "We were first alerted to the problem in the summer of 2009 when our filtering and monitoring system disclosed to us that there were potential concerns with the website Sparklebox.

"There were areas where pictures of children were being published and up until recently there was an active blog.

"The concerns were about the interactive technology on the site and the previous conviction of the owner."

Kinge, who was known as Daniel Kinge before changing his name by deed poll, had been jailed for nine months in 2005 for downloading images of children being abused from the internet while working at a Warwickshire school.

Access to children?

Once the officials had taken the decision to block schools' access to Sparklebox they alerted the 11 other regional Grids for Learning across the UK.

It was then down to each grid to decide whether to block the site in their schools.

Grids including London, Northern, Cumbria and Lancashire also blocked the site. At least one grid decided not to block the website.

But the full reasons for the block were not revealed until Kinge appeared in court in December because of fears over prejudicing the case against him.

This led many teachers who were confused about what was going on to complain that they were being denied access to a useful resource.

Eventually the following statement was forwarded to local authorities by the South West Grid: "It is understood that a person who is on the record as an owner and director of Sparklebox Teacher Resources Limited (which appears to claim ownership of the SparkleBox web site and children's learning materials) is a registered sex offender who has recently admitted a second offence, is on remand in prison and is awaiting sentence in January."

Mr Wright said: "Throughout all of this our prime concern has been for the three-quarters of a million children across the South West and that has informed our decision as to what action to take."

Computer ban

He added: "I personally think that someone with a previous conviction of this nature shouldn't be allowed to access children via the internet."

But a West Mercia Police spokesman said there was nothing within the law to stop Kinge from running a website that went into schools.

In February 2005, he had successfully overturned a ban on using the internet on the grounds that it would prevent him from having almost any kind of job.

The spokesman added: "This time we have got a sexual offenders protection order to run for 15 years. He can't use any computer that isn't monitored by the police."

And he said a family member had taken over the running of the website. He could not say if anyone else had been involved in Sparklebox.

Vetting rules 'relaxed'

A spokeswoman for the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceops) said: "Daniel Kinge, the owner has been sentenced to 12 months in prison following charges by West Mercia Police.

"As such Ceops feels that schools can resume use of this website in line with their normal risk assessment and management processes and in consultation with local authorities."

The case comes just weeks after the government slightly relaxed incoming rules on how people who work or volunteer in schools are vetted.

The DCSF spokesman said the recent changes to the Vetting and Barring Scheme for people who work with children did not in any way relax rules on contact between convicted sex offenders and children.

He said their aim was to balance measures to stop people known to be a threat working face-to-face with children with not interfering with private childcare arrangements between friends and family or adults who worked with children infrequently.

Print Sponsor

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