Disgraced former teacher and hockey coach Glenn Stranex avoids prison
The 53-year old children’s author, ex-teacher and hockey coach was placed under probation for three years for offences including child cruelty and voyeurism.
In addition, the Co Down man was made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for five years which bans him from working with children, and he will also be on the Sex Offenders Register for the same period.
Judge Stephen Fowler told Stranex: “You will never teach again, and your good character and upstanding in the community has been destroyed.”
Stranex, from Cairnsville Road in Bangor, originally faced 17 charges, and despite initially denying these, he pleaded guilty to 11 offences spanning from September 1989 to September 2016, including making and possessing indecent images of children.
A charge of indecently assaulting a young girl was subsequently ‘left on the books.’
A previous hearing at Downpatrick Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, was told Stranex was initially allowed to remain in his post in the North Down primary school where he taught, despite allegations of inappropriate behaviour and physical contact with pupils in the past.
Prosecuting barrister Laura Ivers said Stranex was reported to police by Social Services in September 2016 and was suspended. The teacher had already been subject to disciplinary proceedings in the past, and had been given a final warning.
When police searched his classroom and home and took away a number of items, including computers, laptops and hard-drives, Stranex told officers: “I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry”.
Stranex - who coached the Ulster under-16 hockey team and was the youth officer for the under-15 girls - was arrested following statements made by two former female pupils, who complained of inappropriate behaviour by their teacher when they were around nine or ten.
One of the girls said she was called to the front of the class on occasion, where he rested his hand on her bottom and made her feel uncomfortable. He also made her sit in his knee, and touched her over clothing.
The second complainant said Stranex was overfamiliar with her when she was his pupil, and that he made her play a game where she had to try and kiss him, which made her feel uneasy and uncomfortable.
When police investigated the allegations and searched his home, a number of electronic devices were removed and examined. Amongst a mass of photographs were a small number of indecent images of children - some showing girls in hockey kits in sexual poses.
Further internet searches referenced words such as ‘underage’, ‘pre-teen’ and other associated terms.
The voyeurism charge stemmed from images of a young female undressing in an upstairs room. Stranex later claimed he had been taking “pictures of the moon and the images resulted from his efforts to refocus the camera”.
Defence QC Gavan Duffy said that while Stranex’s offending coincided with the “early stages of his career”, he has taught many hundreds of pupils and his offending related to only “two of his pupils”.
His offending amounted, he said, to an “over-tactile familiarity with these girls, which caused them distress”, adding that Stranex had “failed to keep the proper physical boundaries” in their cases.
The defence barrister also revealed his client was a “keen prolific photographer” and that only a “small handful of images” were indecent.
During the sentencing, Judge Fowler spoke of the “protracted period of time” Stranex’s offending spanned, adding it was an abuse of a position of trust.
Whilst the judge welcomed Stranex’s guilty pleas as this spared the two complainants from coming to court to give evidence, he did note the “distress and emotional upset” his behaviour caused.
Judge Fowler also revealed that since Stranex’s offending became public, his mental health has suffered.