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Freeman Hospital scientist who accessed nearly 7,000 child abuse images banned from profession | #childabuse | #children | #kids

A former Freeman Hospital scientist has been banned from his profession after downloading nearly 7,000 images of child abuse.

Biomedical scientist Alexander Paton had worked at the hospital until he was suspended in August 2020, after he was charged with three offences of making indecent images. Yet despite the charges set against him, Paton failed to tell his regulatory body about the investigation or his suspension from work.

In November 2020 Paton, at the time of Rosewood Close, North Shields, was handed a 10-month suspended sentence. Last month he was brought before a tribunal and was struck off the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) register.

Read more: County Durham convicted sex offender jailed again after police found out he’d been messaging teenage girl on Snapchat

The tribunal panel heard that Paton, who was 31 at the time of his sentencing, had been under police investigation since 2018. Officers had seized three laptops from his home, on which they found 60 Category A, 41 Category B and 6799 Category C child abuse images.

The images involved children under ten years old, some aged between six and eight. The tribunal heard Paton had been accessing the illegal images as far back as 2012.

He was charged in July 2020, and the Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust launched an investigation in August after he told his bosses about the police probe. Paton told a laboratory manager investigating him that he knew he needed to tell the regulatory body about his arrest, but hadn’t done so, saying: “I am just struggling to deal with everything at the moment”.

On August 11, Paton was suspended from work at the hospital. At a further meeting on August 19 he was asked if he’d told the HCPC yet, but he said: “No – I was waiting to see what the outcome of the case was.”

Paton later claimed he had then been contacted by the body “just as he had been about to contact them”.

The panel heard that Paton “wished to apologise for his actions and that he accepted full responsibility”, though he claimed he hadn’t tried to be deceitful in not informing the body of his arrest.

Its report said: “He acknowledged that his wrongdoing had caused significant distress. He said that his actions were not representative of the professionals and his former colleagues who he said do an amazing job each day in the NHS. He wished to apologise to them and to former friends he had let down.”

But, in its ruling, the HCPC said: “The Panel noted that [Paton] had expressed an apology and some remorse. However, the Panel remained very concerned that he had made no reference to, nor shown any understanding of, the impact of his actions in accessing illegal indecent images of the children who are exploited and abused because of such images.

“The Panel also noted that he had shown little insight into the impact of his criminal conviction on the wider profession. The Panel concluded that [Paton’s] submissions concentrated primarily on his own recovery. It was not satisfied that he had meaningful insight into his past actions. In all the circumstances the Panel could not be satisfied there was no, or a low, risk of repetition of his past misconduct in the future.”

The panel imposed a ‘striking off order’. The ruling means Paton will no longer be able to work as a biomedical scientist in hospitals.

The panel heard that Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had not found any evidence that Paton had accessed illegal images on its computers. The trust was offered the opportunity to comment on this story, but a spokesperson said they had nothing to add.

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