Convicted Pedophile Landed Teaching Job Despite Moral Code

A photograph of Paul Prestidge, a British pedophile arrested at his home in Phnom Penh on Saturday morning, was still hanging in the lobby of the reception area at Hope International School on Tuesday.

Standing with his year-nine class, the teacher is named as Paul Evans.

Despite laying out a strict moral code for its employees, Hope International School last year hired Mr. Prestidge to teach math and English at its main campus in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district.

Mr. Prestidge, who is in his 30s, is wanted by British police for breaking the terms of his release from prison after he was sentenced to three years in prison in 2007 for producing and possessing sexually explicit images of young boys while he was a teacher and Cub Scout leader in Plymouth, England.

At the Hope school on Tuesday, executive director David Ware refused to answer questions as to how the institution came to hire a convicted pedophile, whose mugshot and wanted status can be easily found through a simple Internet search.

“As this is very much an ongoing police investigation, in which we are assisting, police have instructed us not to talk to the press about any aspects of the investigation,” he said in the administration building of the school’s northern campus, where Mr. Prestidge worked.

Hope International School, which has two campuses in Phnom Penh and one in Siem Reap, provides private education for the children of missionary and Christian expatriate families.

All teachers who apply to teach at the school are required to agree to the school’s “statement of faith,” which sets guidelines for dress code, alcohol consumption, relationships and church attendance, and requires all employees to live as “Christian role models.”

“Moral misconduct, which violates the bona fide qualification for employees to be Christian role models, includes, but is not limited to, promiscuity, homosexual practice [as opposed to orientation] or any other violation of the unique roles of males and females,” according to the statement, which is available on their website.

“Employees are asked to conduct themselves in a way that will not raise questions regarding their Christian testimonies,” it continues.

In an interview Wednesday, Ros Salin, spokesman for the Education Ministry, said private schools were expected to do their due diligence to ensure that the teachers they employ do not pose a risk to students.

“Schools have to inspect the whole history of teachers including their physical health, any mental health problems and whether they have committed any crimes before,” he said.

Mr. Salin said that private schools enjoy full autonomy regarding inspecting the resumes and backgrounds of foreign teachers. Following the arrest of Mr. Prestidge, he said: “Each private school will have to pay more attention to this problem.”

Mr. Prestidge was arrested Saturday after a request from British police via the British Embassy began a monthslong investigation by Cambodian police to track him down.

On Wednesday, Uk Heisela, chief of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department, said that Mr. Prestidge had been cleared for deportation.

“We have received the request letter for deportation this morning and we are just waiting for his air ticket,” he said.

The convicted pedophile is not suspected of abusing children while in Cambodia, Major General Heisela said.

“We did not investigate for any crimes committed in Cambodia because we arrested him based on the request from the partner country.”

Mr. Prestidge is not the first case of a convicted pedophile from the U.K. coming to teach in Cambodia.

Richard Fruin, who previously served a year in prison in the U.K. for the production of child pornography, was arrested in October 2013 and charged with sexually abusing two brothers, aged 8 and 11. He had been teaching at the Universal English School until his arrest.

In February of that year, British police’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center introduced the International Child Protection Certificate to Cambodia, a background check intended to “prevent U.K. sexual offenders travelling to other countries and gaining access to children through teaching or volunteering roles.”

On Tuesday, the British Embassy sent out a reminder to U.K. citizens about the certificate.

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