UK ex-teacher pleads guilty to child abuse in India

London: A former deputy head teacher of a London primary school has pleaded guilty to paying and instructing teenagers in India to abuse younger children.

The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) revealed this week that it had arrested Matthew Smith, 34, from East Dulwich in south London in November last year after its investigators identified that he was sharing abuse material on the dark web and he was convicted at Southwark Crown Court in London on Tuesday.

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.

“Matthew Smith was a high-risk individual and we moved quickly to locate, arrest and remand him so he could no longer pose a threat to children,” said Helen Dore, NCA’s Senior Officer.

“Ultimately, we were able to prove that he was a prolific offender who manipulated young men to sexually abuse children on his behalf, giving them detailed instructions and financial reward. While conducting his offending, Smith worked at a school in Nepal, then became a deputy head teacher and head of pastoral care in the UK, so his offending is a deep betrayal of the trust placed in him,” she said.

Investigations revealed that Smith was living in Nepal and working at a school for the majority of the offending period in the past.

He also spent various periods working in orphanages and NGOs across India between 2007-2014.

He moved back to the UK in July 2022 and began working at the primary school in London in September that year, where he was a deputy head teacher, or deputy principal, and head of pastoral care.

A UK court was told there is no evidence to suggest he committed offences against children based in Nepal or the UK.

The investigators, however, found evidence of potential offending by Smith against children while he was working in India and the NCA said that information has been shared with relevant law enforcement partners.

“Matthew Smith’s crimes are particularly disturbing given his role as a primary school teacher entrusted with the responsibility of caring for and safeguarding children,” said Claire Brinton, Specialist Prosecutor in the Crown Prosecution Service’s Organised Child Sexual Abuse Unit.

“Thousands of images and videos were recovered from his devices which showed an appalling catalogue of sexual abuse being perpetrated on children. Smith offered individuals payments for indecent images to gratify his own sexual desires, which resulted in the horrifying abuse of young children in India,” she said.

Smith 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. Last month, he was charged with 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.

He appeared at Southwark Crown Court in London on Tuesday, where he pleaded guilty to the additional charges and will be sentenced at the same court on August 4.

“This conviction sends a clear message that the CPS, working alongside the NCA and international partners, will work to bring to justice to those who sexually abuse and exploit children, wherever that abuse takes place,” added Brinton.

The NCA discovered Smith had dark web sites and forums open on his computer which were dedicated to child sexual abuse.

Investigators then interrogated chat logs and financial transactions and were able to establish that Smith had paid teenagers based in India 65,398 pounds 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.

He also gave one of them advice on how to befriend children and build their trust with a view to abusing them, the NCA discovered. Officers recovered over 120,000 indecent images of children (IIOC) which Smith had saved on a laptop, SD card and on his phone.