Ex-teacher who took pictures of naked pupils walks free

James O'Hagan
James O'Hagan

A FORMER science teacher has walked free from court despite admitting he took photographs of naked teenage boys in the school shower.

James O’Hagan, 83, also admitted snapping pupils without their clothes on in the changing rooms and swimming pool at the West Lothian secondary where he taught biology.

The pensioner was admonished at Livingston Sheriff Court yesterday after he pleaded guilty to two historical breach of the peace charges.

However, O’Hagan – who had no previous convictions – will remain on the sex offenders’ register for five years.

The Crown yesterday accepted his pleas of not guilty to three charges of indecent assault, two of common assault and one of lewd, indecent and libidinous practices towards pupils at the school in the 1960s.

The court was told that the prosecution was launched after two former pupils, both now in their 60s, reported O’Hagan to police in 2014 following media coverage of high-profile cases of historic sexual abuse.

The teacher, from Pumpherston, resigned from his post in 1977 after police seized photographs of naked boys from him following an investigation and destroyed them.

Passing sentence, Sheriff Peter Hammond told O’Hagan that it was impossible to conceive of any sentence which would punish or deter him or other offenders, given his age and the time which had elapsed since the 
offences.

The sheriff said: “Because the disposal I’m about the pass is unusual for this kind of case, I’m going to explain why I’ve arrived at the decision which I have.

“I accept that you were under the impression that having been spoken to and nothing having then happened in the intervening years that matters would go no further and the police had simply taken away the photographs and destroyed them at the time.

“That was nearly 40 years ago and your reaction when spoken to about the matter nearly 40 years later was one of surprise.

“You may have left your job under a cloud and since that time you have not offended further and you don’t appear to have represented any risk which has materialised.”

Describing the case as “highly unusual – perhaps even unique” – O’Hagan’s defence lawyer, Mike Bell, highlighted the fact that the first charge was now more than 50 years old.

He said: “He crossed the line from any point of view by taking that interest into school but he’s come to terms with the inappropriate nature of his conduct.

“It’s clear to him now that at the time of the incidents he put his own interests before those of the young folk in his care.

“He regrets that greatly and wishes he could do more than offer a sincere apology, which he does.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com