A former science teacher has been ordered to complete 250 hours of community service work after he was caught with child abuse material in his home.
Paul Damien Lovegrove, 49, was a teacher at Vincentia High School since 2018 but he will now need to find a new career that does not involve children.
Lovegrove came under the notice of police earlier this year and officers went to his Koonawarra home on September 10 to speak to him about an allegation of possessing child abuse material, agreed facts tendered to court said.
Lovegrove immediately admitted he had a USB device inside his home that contained "a small amount of material".
Lovegrove allowed the officers to search his home for any other devices that may have had child abuse material on them.
Police seized his home and work computers, hard drives and USB devices.
Lovegrove was then arrested and taken to Lake Illawarra Police Station where he was interviewed.
Meanwhile, investigators reviewed the USB device and found 97 video files on it.
The videos depicted children aged between 7 and 13 years engaged in sexual acts.
He said he recorded his screen while he watched the videos on a pornographic website.
During the interview, Lovegrove told police he had the material and used it as an "outlet" to cope with the stresses in his life from family, work, a lack of companionship and the pandemic.
He told officers he started watching or viewing child abuse material in 2017 after he became more stressed.
Lovegrove knew it was against the law to possess the material but told officers he did not disseminate it.
He also told them he had never made sexual suggestions to children.
Lovegrove was charged with one count of possessing child abuse material and he appeared in Wollongong Local Court on Thursday to be sentenced.
In court, Lovegrove's defence lawyer Anthony Williamson said his client did not have a criminal record, had a long work history and was previously considered a "person of good character".
Mr Williamson said reports tendered to the court indicated Lovegrove was a low risk of reoffending and had good prospects of rehabilitation as he was seeking psychological treatment.
Mr Williamson also said his client had shown remorse, immediately confessed and co-operated with police during their investigation.
Magistrate Brett Thomas took into account Lovegrove's early guilty plea, remorse, lack of criminal history and the smaller number of files found when compared to similar cases the court often deals with, as well as his mental health.
He sentenced Lovegrove to a community corrections order for three years with 250 hours of community service work.
Magistrate Thomas chose to make Lovegrove complete community service work because he would no longer be employed - and would likely struggle to pay a fine - as a teacher and would be placed on the Child Protection Register.
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