Website run by pervert is blocked after parent outcry
A teaching website run by a paedophile was not barred in Northern Ireland until a parent complained, the Education Minister has revealed.
Caitriona Ruane launched a review after Samuel Kinge (28), from Worcestershire, was jailed a second time last month for downloading abusive images.
He had been running the Sparklebox teaching and parenting resource website, used in thousands of schools across the UK.
Access to the site was blocked only last Monday — more than three months after Kinge's re-arrest — after a parent from a Belfast primary school reported his conviction to the school, Ms Ruane told the Assembly yesterday.
Stormont education committee chairman Mervyn Storey asked: “Why was it that it took a parent to notify the school of this situation despite the fact that this information had been available since December of 2009?”
The parent had a child at a south Belfast primary school.
Kinge, a teacher from Evesham, was jailed in Warwick in January 2005 for possessing child pornography.
He changed his name from Daniel Kinge and started Sparklebox in February 2006, and was arrested again last September on charges of making and possessing indecent images of children.
Last month he was jailed for a year, and given a 15-year sexual offences order, stopping him from using a computer without a police detection program installed.
The group which manages the IT system in Northern Ireland, C2K, managed by the Western Education and Library Board, became aware of issues surrounding Sparklebox last December and spoke to regional broadband consortia in England, several of which had blocked access to this site until they were satisfied that suitable safeguards were in place.
Ms Ruane said C2K took the view that sufficient arrangements were in place to ensure the safety of users and did not therefore initially remove access to the site.
C2K's position is that its system has filters in place to block any possible interactive component (blogs and toolbars) in the site.
She added: “I remain to be convinced that responses to this particular situation were proportionate and timely.
“The key thing is that we protect our children and young people and I will take every measure I can to ensure that our children are protected.”
Ms Ruane’s department has written to the Western board to instruct it to investigate how the matter was handled and make recommendations on what lessons can be learned.
Her department will issue follow-up guidance alluding to safeguarding arrangements following the Sparklebox experience.
SDLP education spokesman Dominic Bradley said: “There is no reason why the minister should not issue instructions today, before the outcome of any inquiry, as to what the schools internet portal C2K should do if any similar situation arises in the future.
“Websites should be blocked immediately and schools informed without delay. When it comes to protecting children, the minister should shut the door first.”