Pervert teaching assistant jailed for spying on children

Jonathan Birt was jailed for covertly filming schoolchildren getting changed in their PE kits
Jonathan Birt was jailed for covertly filming schoolchildren getting changed in their PE kits

A pervert teaching assistant who set up secret cameras to spy on school children as they changed for PE lessons has been caged.

Jonathan Birt, 24, hid the cameras in the gym and boys’ toilets at a Fylde coast primary school, where he worked.

He also set up a camera in a bathroom to spy on a boy using the toilet, sexually assaulted another boy and secretly filmed a teenage boy taking a shower.

Jailing him for four years at Preston Crown Court, Judge Stuart Baker said: “It was deliberate, determined and devious activity, thought up by you.”

On August 14, 2016, officers searched Birt’s Blackpool home and seized his computer equipment.

On it, they discovered Birt’s sick haul of 741 indecent images of children being abused.

But further analysis revealed a hidden folder, falsely titled ‘Recycle Bin’ which contained a number of covert recordings filmed on a USB drive.

Some clips showed youngsters at the school where he worked in their underwear as they changed from their school uniform to their PE kits.

The Gazette is not naming the school for legal reasons.

One showed a boy under 16 naked in the shower at his home, after Birt hid a camera in the bathroom.

Another, taken from a different bathroom, showed a young boy exposing his bottom when he used the toilet.

Judge Baker said: “You were admitted into the house as a guest and trusted, no doubt, to behave in a proper way.

“You grossly abused that element of trust by taking the opportunity to install in the bathroom a device to observe what was going on in these private surroundings.”

In September 2016, a teenage boy, who can not be named for legal reasons, told police he had been sexually abused by Birt on a number of occasions, when he had stayed at his flat to watch wrestling.

Birt pleaded guilty to indecent assault, voyeurism and possession of indecent images.

He admitted setting up the cameras for his own sexual gratification and told officers he was sexually attracted to boys aged eight and over – but said he just wanted to get help.

Judge Baker said: “It is right to say you did not have physical contact with the children you were secretly observing but it would be very unsettling for the children once they know they have been observed.

“Some took place while you were at the primary school not just as a visitor but working there as a paid member of staff.

“You were taking the opportunity to clandestinely view and record he activity of children in the changing area.”

He sentenced Birt to 20 months in prison for indecent assault, 12 months for voyeurism and 16 months for possession of indecent images.

A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: “We welcome the sentence today which reflects the gravity of Birt’s crimes.

“These offences displayed a gross breach of trust and were committed to satisfy his own depraved sexual gratification.

“We will continue to work with our partners to ensure that our young people are safeguarded.

“We take all reports of sexual offences seriously no matter who the alleged offender and we would encourage anyone who feels they have been a victim, or who has information, to come forward safe in the knowledge that we will investigate professionally and sensitively.”

The headteacher of the school where Birt worked said: “I can confirm that we are aware that a former member of staff, Mr Birt, appeared at Preston Crown Court yesterday.

“Mr Birt last worked at our school in February 2014, almost three years before allegations came to light.

“We supported the police fully with their investigation throughout and are relieved that the legal process has now concluded.

“We will now continue to focus on providing the best education for our students.”