Reverend fighting child porn charges
Former chaplain Matthew David O'Meara arrives at the District Court. Picture: Mogens Johansen/The West Australian

A former chaplain at a Perth girls’ school is fighting charges that he possessed child pornography after explicit photographs and movies involving young girls were found on thumb drives.

Matthew David O’Meara, standing trial on four child porn charges in the District Court, is likely to claim he was set-up and had no knowledge that child pornography was on the storage devices.

Reverend O’Meara, a 42-year-old married father of two, had been working as the chaplain at Perth College in Mt Lawley for six months before he was charged and sacked.

Prosecutor Linda Keane said the charges related to sexually explicit images and videos found saved on two thumb drives - one found by another teacher on her desk in early August 2010 and the other seized by police from Mr O’Meara’s trouser pocket.

The jury was told Deborah Mitchell, whose office was next to Mr O’Meara’s, handed the thumb drive to the school’s deputy principal after it was left unclaimed on her whiteboard tray for three weeks and she became concerned over its contents when trying to examine the files with students in a bid to identify its owner.

The deputy principal then asked the school’s IT manager John Garnett to examine it in more detail and when the contents of the USB stick became clearer, the school’s principal called the police on August 20, 2010, the court heard.

Ms Keane said when police searched Mr O’Meara’s office the accused man handed over a thumb drive from his pocket which allegedly contained child pornography.

Police also searched Mr O’Meara’s house, which was across the road and provided by the school, and seized two computers.

Jurors heard Mr O’Meara allegedly possessed images of unknown girls, whose ages could not be confirmed, engaging in sexual acts or posing provocatively that did not form part of the charges, but which prosecutors suggested pointed to the accused’s alleged sexual interest in young girls.

Ms Keane said while some of the images could be "arguably innocent" in the context of the other material discovered it took on a "more sinister complexion".

"It’s not some harmless, fatherly or caring interest, it’s a sexual interest," she said.

Ms Keane said police allegedly discovered evidence that Mr O’Meara had accessed child pornography on his home computer as well as Facebook pages belonging to teenage girls he used to teach in Melbourne.

The prosecutor said many of the images were unpleasant and disturbing and that police had found "significant and compelling evidence" linking the material to Mr O’Meara.

The jury was told that on the thumb drive found by Ms Mitchell were also electoral forms with the details of Mr O’Meara and his wife as well as sermons.

She said for material to be considered child pornography it must depict a child or someone who looks like a child under 16 and is likely to cause offence to reasonable adults.

In his opening address, defence lawyer Laurie Levy said his client "knew nothing of the content of child pornography on any of these devices".

He said Mr O’Meara, a teacher for almost 15 years, denied having an improper interest in young girls, saying most of his career was spent at co-educational or all-boys schools.

Mr Levy told jurors other staff members used the chaplain’s office as a shortcut, his work computer was shared with the assistant chaplain and a number of people had keys to his house.

The defence lawyer said there was a "completely innocent explanation" for Mr O’Meara having the Facebook pages of past students on his home computer.

Ms Keane said Mr O’Meara might claim to have been set up by the school’s IT manager John Garnett for some unknown reason.

He said Mr Garnett, who had helped set up internet access in Mr O’Meara’s house, might be a "somewhat convenient fall guy", but rejected any allegation of a "nasty conspiracy" or "stitch-up" to get Mr O’Meara sacked, saying Mr Garnett had no reason to target Mr O’Meara - a man he hardly knew.

In her evidence, Ms Mitchell, the speech and drama teacher at the Anglican girls school, said she was unable to open the files and when she got help from three students who were more computer savvy, she started becoming concerned when she saw thumbnail images of a young girl possibly in a bubble bath and posing in a bikini.

She said she immediately dismissed the students and took the thumb drive to the deputy principal. "I just had a feeling - a bad feeling actually - about those photos," she said.

The trial before Judge Allan Fenbury continues.

The West Australian

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