A primary school teacher is facing jail after coaxing girls as young as eight into doing the splits for him and secretly filming them.
James Hughes, 54, would get girls to stand on chairs and put their legs up in the air after taking them out of class for one-to-one lessons at a school in North Lanarkshire, Scotland.
Police were contacted after a teenager, who was doing work experience at the school, found photographs of herself on his iPad and reported him to the head teacher.
Hughes appeared at Airdrie Sheriff Court in Airdrie, near Glasgow, and pleaded guilty to two charges of voyeurism
Officers searched his home in Uddingston, Lanarkshire, and office and discovered 260 images and 79 recordings on his phone and computers.
Hughes appeared at Airdrie Sheriff Court in Airdrie, near Glasgow, and pleaded guilty to two charges of voyeurism under the Sexual Offences Scotland Act by secretly filming and photographing girls aged between 8 and 16.
Fiscal depute Anne Frances Hilley told the court: ‘The accused was asking the girls to be excused from lessons saying he needed assistance and for extra reading lessons.
‘The complainers described that the accused would play with them. He would have them sit on a chair and raise their legs into the air and tell them to open them wide.
‘He positioned one of the girls so the camera was pointing under her skirt. He tried to get her to do the splits but she refused.
‘Unbeknown to them the accused was filming them under the desk and the camera was focused on the complainers’ genital area.
‘He was their teacher and they trusted him. They were ashamed and embarrassed at what had happened.
‘He was in a position of trust. They were all pupils in the care of the accused who was an experienced teacher. They thought of him as a great teacher until this happened. All are now aware of what he was doing.’
Miss Hilley told how Hughes crimes came to light when three girls aged between 14 and 16 were on a work placement at the school in November, 2016.
She said: ‘On the first day of the placement one of the girls was working in the hallway when the accused approached her and said she was too small to reach up to the top of the notice board but she said she wasn’t and used a stool to reach the notice board.
‘She noticed the accused had his mobile phone in his hand and appeared to be looking around him.
‘On the second day all three were in the same room and they noticed the accused had his phone under the desk and was moving it around.
‘On the third day one of the complainers found herself in the same classroom as the accused who was holding a notepad in front of him. She felt there was something strange about this.
‘The girls spoke with each other and said he had been taking pictures of them and was recording them. They were the only occasions they knew about however the accused was covertly filming them.
‘On the last day of the placement one of the complainers went to the accused’s office where they had seen him move his iPad about. He was not there and they found images of herself on the iPad.
‘The girl became upset by this and spoke about what she had found. The girls went to speak to the headteacher and did not return to any classes.
‘The accused had left his phone on charge in his office and they found five or six photos and some videos on his phone.
‘Following this the school contacted parents and the education department of the council.’
Sheriff Petra Collins deferred sentence next month and placed Hughes on the sex offenders’ register.
She said: ‘I am prepared to continue bail but you have to appreciate that you have pled guilty to what are extremely serious matters and at the forefront of my mind is a custodial sentence.’
Hughes was suspended from his post when the allegations came to light and is expected to be sacked at a disciplinary hearing this week.
Gerard McLaughlin, head of education at North Lanarkshire Council, said: ‘The safety and welfare of our pupils is paramount and as soon as the school was alerted to the incident, immediate action was taken to protect them.
‘A police investigation was launched and Mr Hughes was immediately suspended. A full range of support services were offered to pupils and staff and school management engaged with parents to keep them informed of the situation.
‘Incidents such as these are extremely rare within our schools but the council takes all allegations seriously and carries out all appropriate measures to safeguard pupils.’