A FORMER schoolteacher has been jailed after being found guilty of downloading indecent images of children.

In a three-day trial at Dorchester Crown Court, Patrick Jenkins, a former chemistry teacher at the Thomas Hardye School, Dorchester, denied 21 charges of making indecent images of children.

But a jury of seven men and five women returned guilty verdicts on all charges after deliberating the evidence for two-and-a-half hours.

Jenkins was jailed for a total of 32 weeks, prompting child protection campaigners to question whether the message being sent out was strong enough.

The 21 charges relate to 1,275 images which were found on two computers belonging to Jenkins, 32, when the devices were examined after his arrest in May 2010.

Jenkins had been a teacher at the school up until his arrest, although none of the charges relate to children at the school.

The pictures were graded according to seriousness, with level five being the most serious. , Investigators found the majority of images at level one, some at levels two and three, more than 200 at level four and a handful at level five.

Mitigating, Robin Shellard said the past several years had been a ‘tragedy’ for Jenkins, of Thornhill Close, Dorch-ester.

He said: “Since his arrest he has been unable to work, and unable to carry on the sort of employment that his whole life has been geared towards, and that is a tragedy for him.”

Mr Shellard described the defendant, of previous good character, as ‘intelligent, sensitive and articulate’ and ‘a man who would ordinarily have a great deal to offer society’.

He added: “There has never been any suggestion that he had designs on any of the students at Thomas Har-dye, where he had an exemplary conduct record.”

He told the court: “Every-thing Mr Jen-kins and his family have worked for – his A-levels, a doctorate in electro-engineering, teacher training – has been cast down, never to be resurrected again.”

Judge Roger Jarvis sentenced Jenkins to 32 weeks for each of the charges relating to the level four and five images, and 10 weeks for each of the charges relating to the level one, two and three images, with all sentences to be served concurrently.

Jenkins, who is originally from Cardiff, was ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for 10 years, and has been disqualified from working with children.

Judge Jarvis told Jenkins: “This is a terrible day for you. Until the discovery by police of these images you had everything to look forward to.

“Unfortunately you have a weakness, and that is viewing indecent images of young children, some very young indeed.”

He added: “Whilst one can feel some sympathy for you, far greater sympathy goes towards those children who are viewed.

“When they are children, their lives are in the hands of those who require them to pose, and when they reach adulthood, they can never escape the fact that those awful images are there, on the internet. Their lives must be absolutely dreadful.”

Jenkins ‘Let The Whole Profession Down’

Claude Knights, director of child protection charity Kidscape, described the crimes as ‘abhorrent’.

She said: “It is so distressing when you hear of teachers or those who work with children betray them in this way. They should know better.

“It reflects badly on those who work so hard and diligently in such a committed way, and it lets the whole profession down.

“These are not victimless crimes. To have someone working in that position of trust to be part of the problem in terms of allowing this market to grow – that’s what is distressing.

“For every image that is produced and downloaded there is a child who has been mistreated in the most appalling way.

“I feel the sentence should be a message to others and I do not know if that message is strong enough.

“Obviously this person has changed the whole path of their lives but you have to ask if enough has been done within the package of measures to ensure this person has understood the complete abhorrence of this.

“Will he understand that this should not happen again?

“Will it be enough to protect society in the future?”

Tony Day, clerk to the Governors at Thomas Hardye School, said: “Whilst Jenkins was a teacher at this school, there were no issues affecting any of the students.”