School trainee who secretly photographed children in Lincolnshire classroom is jailed

A student who secretly took indecent photographs of children in their classroom at a primary school was jailed for 26 months on Friday.

Lewis Croft, 19, who was on a work placement at the school as part of a college course, took hundreds of photographs without staff or the children realising what he was doing.

The school cannot be named due to legal constraints which could identify the victim(s).

Croft took photographs of children undressing for PE lessons and also took upskirt photos of young girls in class.

Phil Howes, prosecuting, told Lincoln Crown Court that Croft’s activities came to light after the authorities discovered he had been uploading other indecent images onto the internet.

Croft, who had passed Disclosure and Barring Service checks before starting at the school and was a volunteer scout leader, was traced and his home was raided.

Lincolnshire Police received information from an American Law enforcement agency that illegal images of children were being downloaded at an address at Cliff Lane in Welton.

Police found hundreds of indecent images of children on his mobile phone and his laptop, including over 200 he took himself of children he was involved with in the classroom.

Mr Howes said: “He was on a child care course at Lincoln College and spent time at the school on a work placement. He was studying on a level two child care course.

“Analysis of his devices revealed a number of indecent images of children. Some were uploaded from the internet and some were taken in a school environment.

“They included photographs showing children in the classroom in various states of dress. There were also upskirt shots.

“Some of them even had the defendant’s face on the image as he leaned down and looked up.

“They had obviously been taken covertly but under the noses of the people he was working with.

“The internet photographs and the school photographs are predominantly of females.”

He added: “It is clear he never took children to the bathroom when he was at the school and was never unsupervised with children in the classroom or the playground.”

Mr Howes said the discovery of the photographs had a huge impact on parents and staff at the school.

“They could not believe he was able to do this.”

The prosecutor said that when Croft was interviewed by police he apparently did not understand the seriousness of the allegations he faced.

Parents of the children involved said in written victim statements that they have been left devastated at what happened.

One father, whose child was photographed over 50 times, said their family had suffered emotional trauma. He said: “It seems like he has singled out my daughter. I hate him for that. Why has he singled her out?”

And a mother said “I’m absolutely shocked. We have been destroyed by what Lewis did to our daughter. This has changed everything for us. We no longer feel we can trust anybody with children. We feel like nowhere is safe.”

Croft, of Cliff Road, Welton, near Lincoln, admitted a charge of taking a total of 229 indecent images of children between November 2018 and July this year.

He also admitted three charges of making a total of 1,507 indecent images of children which were downloaded from the internet.

He was jailed for 26 months and placed on the sex offenders register for 10 years. He was also given a 10 year sexual harm prevention order.

Recorder Catarina Sjolin, passing sentence, told him: “It is clear that you have limited insight into your offending.

“You deny sexual interest in children and deny any sexual motive behind taking these photographs. I cannot accept that.

“A huge aggravating factor in this case is the abuse of trust. These children were known to you and your offending went on for a long period.”

David Watts, in mitigation, described Croft as an immature teenager. He said the defendant’s actions were limited to taking photographs and he did not touch any child.

“He extends his apology to the school and the parents and children,” said Mr Watts.

As previously reported, Lincolnshire Police wrote letters to parents and guardians of children attending the school, which were received on Wednesday, August 21, regarding the finalised police investigation.

In an attached letter, the school spoke of its “state of shock and disbelief at what has happened” and said “we can come together as a community to support each other and focus on the children returning to school in September as they move into their new classes”.

Detective Superintendent Jon McAdam, Head of Lincolnshire Police Protecting Vulnerable Persons Unit, said: “Lewis Croft has exploited opportunities to work with children and once in a position of trust he has secretly taken images of children at a school.

“He originally came to notice for downloading illegal indecent images of children at his home address. He has been sentenced for all of his offending today and part of his sentence will prevent him ever working with children or gaining a position of trust where he has access to children again.”