A HIGHLY regarded school teacher of 30 years has been jailed for possessing child pornography to which he had become addicted.
A Melbourne magistrate on Thursday said that Adrian Michael Fennessy, 53, had never had an adult relationship and had a separate life from his role as a teacher.
The magistrate Peter Reardon described as ''staggering'' the amount of pornography that Fennessy possessed, and noted that 2 per cent was in the worst category.
Melbourne Magistrates Court heard that Fennessy had downloaded more than 16,000 images, traded pornography on the internet and used different email accounts to access chat rooms.
Prosecutor Luisa Dipietrantonio said that through the chat rooms Fennessy had developed the alias ''Mary'' - a 16-year-old - through which he lived out fantasies of being her.
Ms Dipietrantonio said that after Fennessy was arrested in March 2011, when he was teaching at Santa Maria College, a Catholic girls school in Northcote, he admitted his reason for possessing pornography was to ''get off, basically''.
His lawyer said that such offenders were often lonely, shy and insular people who were otherwise of good character.
In his sentencing remarks, Mr Reardon noted that a number of character references spoke highly of Fennessy as a teacher and a person.
Mr Reardon said that on his arrest, Fennessy had rung the principal because he was concerned for the school itself.
He also had undertaken therapy organised by the archdiocese of Melbourne.
''You were a good teacher,'' Mr Reardon told him, ''but you led a separate life …''
He had reduced the sentence he would have otherwise imposed because of Fennessy's previous good character, lack of prior convictions, co-operation with police and the fact that he was remorseful.
Fennessy was jailed for 12 months with a minimum term of four months, with the balance suspended for two years.