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London friar admits downloading abuse images


Southwark Crown Court

Southwark Crown Court

A priest based in London has admitted downloading more than 5,000 images of child abuse from the internet. Timothy Gardner, 41, is facing jail after he pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court on Monday to 10 counts of downloading the images. The collection was discovered when police searched his home at St Dominic’s Priory in Haverstock Hill and seized computers in August, after receiving information from the public.

Gardner taught RE at Maria Fidelis Catholic School in Euston for six years from 2006 to 2012. Headteacher Helen Gill said she was “shocked and saddened” by the revelations, but said none of the allegations related to his time at the school. “Since learning of the charges I have written to parents to provide this reassurance and we will, of course, provide necessary support to pupils and parents if required,” she added.

Gardner's barrister, Louise Sweet, told the court he was of previous good character but said reports were needed regarding an alcohol problem.

Camden council said Gardner had undergone a full CRB check and there were no doubts about his behaviour during his time at the school, nor was there any suggestion that the images related to people from Camden.

At the time of his arrest, Gardner was working for the Catholic Education Service (CES). The chairman of the CES, Bishop Malcolm McMahon, said: “I and the members of staff of the CES are deeply upset and troubled at the news of these internet offences by Fr Gardner. Working with statutory agencies, the church will continue to do all it can to ensure the safety of all vulnerable people in our society.”

Bishop John Sherrington, chairman of the Westminster Diocesan Education Commission, said: “I endorse the Bishop McMahon’s statement and offer prayers and support to those pupils and staff who trusted Fr Gardner and are shocked by his actions.”

Gardner will be sentenced on March 31.

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