Shock as Portsmouth teacher is charged with child sex offence

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AN ASSISTANT headteacher has been charged with alleged sexual offences involving children.

Matthew Hill, 38, who taught at Lyndhurst Junior School in North End, has been charged with six offences by police.

Five counts relate to making indecent images of children, but none of them relates to children at the school in Crofton Road.

Hill has also been charged with one count of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child at Buckland Park Adventure Playground in Malins Road, Buckland, where he was a regular volunteer.

Detectives said there is no allegation of sexual assault.

They said there had been no suggestion of physical contact or that the child had been touched.

Hill is not at work at Lyndhurst Junior School at the moment.

Headteacher Margaret Beel said he had taught children aged between seven and 11 for the last 12 years, apart from 2003 to 2004 when he spent a year working at Portsmouth Grammar School.

She told The News: ‘It’s distressing to let parents know that a member of teaching staff has been charged with offences relating to children.

‘This is upsetting for both parents and staff at the school who are obviously shocked.

‘The safety and protection of children is our number one priority and all staff are subject to enhanced Criminal Record Bureau checks before they are cleared to work.’

Hill, who is from the Copnor and North End area, was charged on Christmas Day, but details have only just been released.

He appeared in Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court on Boxing Day and was bailed until February 26 to an address in Fareham.

A condition of his bail is not to have unsupervised contact with children.

Detective Inspector John Geden said specialist officers had visited a number of families as part of their inquiries.

He said: ‘Police are working closely with Portsmouth City Council to identify, contact and speak with people who may have further information. Detectives are responding swiftly and sensitively to ensure families are supported while an investigation and court case continues. At this delicate early stage of an investigation and court case, it’s important for people to avoid leaping to inaccurate assumptions about this situation. We know there will be concern in the community, but please work with us by contacting police to discuss any information or queries you may have directly.’

Julian Wooster, Portsmouth City Council’s director of children’s services, said: ‘We would like to praise the prompt action of both the police and council staff in taking action and dealing with this quickly once aware of the concerns.’

A council helpline has been set up for this case.

For support and guidance call (023) 9243 7800 from 9am to 5pm. Call police with information on 101, quoting Operation Barbet.