A man who abused children in the UK on numerous occasions duped an elite city school and secured a job for 13 years.
Peponi House School was last week forced to send regret letters to parents over the debacle that saw the teacher working at the institution.
Peter Toner, 60, was jailed by a UK court last week for crimes committed in the 1980s, but which escaped background checks by the school that hired him to teach between 2000 and 2013.
So embarrassing was the revelation that the school management had to write to the parents of 370 pupils to assure them that vetting was thorough and express regret that Toner had escaped their scrutiny.
Peponi’s primary school is located on 11 acres in Lower Kabete while its secondary school, Peponi School, is on land earmarked for development of a mega city.
Arrested at airport
Sitting in the Old Bailey circuit court in the UK last Thursday, Justice Anuja Dhir sentenced Mr Toner to three-and-a-half years in jail for child sexual abuse.
The science teacher was convicted for sexual abuse in the 1980s while working at St John Beaumont School, a Catholic school founded by the Jesuits.
At 27 years, he preyed on boys aged between nine and 12 years, filming them as they strip-teased. He is said to have taught others how to masturbate and measured their private parts.
The Scotsman even sexually abused one victim in the school’s library and a staff room.
When he was arrested at Heathrow Airport on July 5, 2015, while returning to the UK, detectives found in his USB stick 16 videos of child sex and seven images. He also had 123 videos of children sex and animals, 26 other images of children posing naked and 197 others that did not show sexual activity.
In total, he had 371 indecent images of children.
He also had a laptop but had deleted all the sexual videos and images in it.
“You abused the trust the parents, the children and the school had in you; you used your position as a teacher to commit sexual offences against young boys in your care.
“All of those counts had one feature in common, they showed you are a man who had and still has a perverted sexual interest in young boys, boys aged between the ages of nine and 12,” Justice Dhir ruled.
“We have recently been informed that Mr Peter Toner (who was a teacher at this school between 2000 and 2013) has been convicted of offences committed at another preparatory school in the UK in the 1980s, following his arrest in 2015,” read the email sent to parents and guardians who have children at Peponi by head teacher Robert Blake.
Mr Blake said before the science teacher was employed by Peponi House, the school had conducted a background check on him.
Court records obtained by The Standard from the UK’s Judiciary read that he was arrested in transit from Oman, where he was also a teacher.
“Our records indicate that appropriate checks were made prior to Mr Toner’s appointment and safeguarding checks continued to be made during his employment as is the case of every member of staff,” said Toner’s former Peponi boss.
“We are appalled by the events of the past and it is saddening to see many cases across the world of historic child abuse, especially when those took place in schools. There is no place in society for abuse, particularly by those in positions of power. We admire the courage of those who came forward to report it.”
Peponi House has at least 370 children aged between six and 13 years.
The UK court used the testimonies of a 39-year-old man called LP and his former classmate ON, who is now 38, to nail the paedophile.
LP testified that when he was around 10 years old, Toner took him and another boy to his cottage then lured them to his bedroom. He then encouraged them to strip tease as he recorded them on his camera.
“As the boys were taking their clothes off, you were operating the video camera. The camera was pointing at the second boy when he was kneeling on the bed with his underpants on. LP said you zoomed in with the camera on his genitals,” said Dhir.
The court heard that the witness remained haunted by the scenes in his childhood. He overcame it sometime in 1999, when he told his girlfriend of the shame he carried.
On the other hand narrated to the court that Toner told him to sit on his knee, took off his clothes and showed him how to masturbate. He told no one because Toner told him not to, referring to it as “our secret”.
He took him a second time, this time from the cubicles, and told him he wanted to conduct an experiment on what had happened. The teacher then used a ruler to measure ON’s private parts.
Then 12 years old, ON told his mother but her reaction made him reluctant to raise the matter again.
“It bothered him for a very long time. He explained that he told the police because he felt guilty that this man may have been behaving in the same way – felt powerless,” the judge noted.