Former Edinburgh headteacher jailed for child sex offences

Neal McGowan
Neal McGowan

A headteacher has been jailed for inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

Dr Neal McGowan, the former head of Gracemount High in Edinburgh, was jailed for 10 months for the offences which took place while working at a school in Essex at the beginning of 2016.

The 54-year-old of Dickonsfield, Edinburgh, pleaded guilty to two offences of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

McGowan also admitted two offences of making indecent photographs of the boy.

Judge Emma Peters sentenced him to 10 months in prison at Chelmsford Crown Court.

She also ordered him to sign the sex offenders’ register for 10 years. McGowan will automatically be on the Barring List and will never be able to teach again.

The judge told him: “You have a hugely impressive track record in the world of education.

“But what has been outlined to me can be characterised as a spectacular fall from grace. You succumbed to the sort of temptation that every teacher knows they should not allow themselves to be tempted by.

“You allowed yourself to be involved in sexual chat with one of your male pupils, a boy who at the time was 17 and was struggling to come to terms with his own sexuality, a matter you were aware of.”

The court had been told that McGowan and the child never met up for sexual contact and the exchange of texts and Facetime messages lasted for about two months.

The court was told that during the two month period of the offences, the sixth former’s behaviour and attendance deteriorated. Prosecutor Kate Davis said he was “behaving arrogantly, as if he was untouchable”.

The judge said McGowan had contributed to the world of education in the most “magnificent of ways”. He had helped the Scottish Government with its policies and procedures in improving behaviour in schools.

“That makes it all the more awful that this boy was showing a deterioration in his own performance,” she said.

Mitigating, Louise Sweet said McGowan was a man who had been an exemplary and inspiring teacher and headteacher, and wanted to express his deep sorrow for what he had done.

She continued : “You cannot live a life like that without something breaking in due course. You cannot mentally compartmentalise yourself like that without something going wrong.”

She added: “He is a man who is ordinarily very sound in his judgment. His judgment was clouded.”