School caretaker admits porn charges

A PRIMARY school caretaker has admitted a string of child pornography charges after shocked staff called police when they found a disturbing image on a printer.

A PRIMARY school caretaker has admitted a string of child pornography charges after shocked staff called police when they found a disturbing image on a printer.

Darren Cronin, 20, from Newmarket, pleaded guilty to 16 counts of making indecent photos of children and asked for a further 106 offences to be taken into consideration when he appeared at Cambridge Crown Court yesterday .

Cronin worked at the town's Ditton Lodge County First School, which has children aged between five and nine years old, and is just eight miles from Soham where school caretaker Ian Huntley murdered 10-year-old schoolgirls Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells in August 2002.

In the aftermath of the brutal killings that shocked the country, rules on vetting school staff were tightened in the hope that sex offenders would be prevented from working with children.


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But, despite parallels between the two cases, the county council and the police said there was no reason at the time why Cronin's appointment at the school should have been prevented as security checks found he had no criminal record.

Det-con Phil Richardson, head of Cambridgeshire Police's paedophile and internet investigation unit, told the EADT: "Cronin was first brought to our attention when staff at the school found what they deemed to be an indecent photograph on the school printer.

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"The school computer and the photographs were checked by employees at Cambridgeshire County Council who found that the images were more inappropriate than indecent."

But the shocking find at the school prompted police to investigate Cronin's home when they found a large number of images on his home computers.

DC Richardson said: "In this case, police acted swiftly and an arrest was made within days.

"I think everything was done what could have been done - the right checks were carried out and there were no previous indications that Cronin had any sexual involvement with children.

"After checks were made on his computer, we can say that no children from the school were identified on the pictures and there is no evidence of any abuse at the school.

"The fact that this man worked at a school makes it even more despicable but lessons have been learned in the last few years and things have been tightened up."

The court heard that Cronin pleaded guilty to making indecent photos of children and also distributing the photos on the internet between July 2003 and October 2004.

Cronin, who was accompanied at court by his mother and father, was ordered to register as a sex offender at his local police station within three days.

He was bailed on condition that he live either with his father in Newmarket or at his mother's address in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.

Judge Jonathan Haworth adjourned Cronin's case for pre-sentence and psychiatric reports until August 8.

After the hearing, a Cambridgeshire County Council spokesman said they were "totally confident" that vetting checks had been carried out correctly on Cronin and had come back clear.

He added: "The obvious problem with any checks is that they can only identify someone who has been in trouble with the police before.

"Our checking process has always been thorough but following the Bichard Inquiry [held after the Huntley conviction], we and all authorities have tightened up our procedures even further.

"Formal disciplinary proceedings have now begun in light of these guilty pleas."

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