December 2018

Social worker who used dark web to view indecent images of children is struck off

A social worker who used the ‘dark web’ to access indecent images of children as young as three years old has been struck off.

Shaun Devlin admitted viewing vile images “on a regular basis” over three years while employed as a social worker by Durham County Council.

Now a disciplinary panel has ruled Devlin should be permanently barred from the profession that is there to “protect vulnerable people from abuse rather than support it”.

The Health & Care Professions Tribunals Service (HCPTS) said they could not be sure service users “would not be at risk of harm from him” and that “members of the public would be dismayed to know their children could be under the care of a social worker convicted of these offences”.

The panel heard that Devlin had been employed as a social worker by Durham County Council since 2002.

But in May 2017 the authority was told by Northumbria Police that he had admitted using the ‘dark web’ to access indecent images of children “on a regular basis”.

The hearing was told he did this at home and via his mobile phone, but did not use any county council equipment to view the images.

On February 16 this year Devlin pleaded guilty to making indecent images of children at North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.

A month later, the panel heard, he was sentenced to a Community Order for three years, with the sentences for each of the four charges to run concurrently.

Devlin was also made the subject of an electronically monitored curfew for six months and a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for five years.

The panel’s report said: “From the remarks of the sentencing judge in the Crown Court it is clear that the images were not only still images but also films, of which a number were Category A, the most serious level of image.

“The judge described a specifically aggravating factor to be the fact that the children were very young, between three and eight years old and their obvious vulnerability.

“It is also apparent from the remarks of the sentencing judge that [Devlin] had been accessing the material over a lengthy period of time, between 2014 – 2017.”