Review finds nursery abuser ‘groomed parents’

A review into the case of a Lanarkshire nursery worker who abused boys has said more robust procedures are needed to detect offenders who seek to “groom parents” to get to their children.

Alexander Mortimer, 30, was jailed for eight years in July 2012 for the abuse and having 17,967 images and 582 videos of child pornography on his computer.

Sentencing Mortimer at the High Court in Edinburgh, Judge Lady Stacey told him the images were “vile”.

It can now be revealed that management at the nursery in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, were made aware of “concerns” about Mortimer’s behaviour at work before the abuse emerged but did not act.

The nursery worker began looking after the brothers he assaulted, a two-year-old and a three-year-old, after befriending their mother and grandmother.

He began to help looking after the boys and sometimes took them on trips.

Mortimer was caught after intelligence led police to raid his home and seize computer and phone equipment.

Following his conviction, a Significant Case Review was carried out by South Lanarkshire Child Protection Committee.

The review concluded: “One of the most disturbing aspects of this case was the way in which the perpetrator seems to have set about building up his ability to access children over several years through his career path and the way he created opportunity to abuse children by befriending parents he met through his work.

“He groomed parents in order to get to children.

“As the review brings out, this has implications for recruitment on to training courses and into employment for child protection training, for the alertness of management to the possibility that this could happen and for all involved to be receptive to any concerns raised by parents or colleagues.”

The review also noted that “several colleagues had raised concerns with internal managers” about some of Mortimer’s behaviour which “had not been in line with nursery protocols”.

It noted: “But these had not been passed on to or further discussed with external managers.”

It is understood that the behaviour referred to related to Mortimer’s “unkempt” appearance and a perception of him being “lazy”, rather than any concerns that he posed a threat to children.

CPC chairman Norman Dunning said, however, that if elements of Mortimer’s behaviour had been acted upon sooner, he may have been put off from attempting his abusive activities.

“This case not only concerned dreadful abuse of children but also a gross betrayal of trust by a professional charged with their care.

“The CPC therefore, publishes this report so that what we have learned from this situation can be widely shared, alerting all organisations who provide children’s services and also the wider public to the tactics used by this abuser.

“We commend the police operation which detected these crimes and led to prosecution before even worse occurred. We also much appreciate the cooperation we have had from parents, South Lanarkshire Council and all agencies involved in conducting this review and taking on board the lessons learned.”

Jim Gilhooly, South Lanarkshire Council’s executive director of education, said the lessons from the review needed to be learned “not just locally but nationally”.

“We have already moved to address the issues raised in the review’s recommendations and I am sure other agencies will do the same,” he said.

“The warning about the way Mortimer ‘groomed’ parents is something we all need to be particularly aware of so that, as agencies and parents, we can do everything possible to guard against such predators.”