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Prison IT teacher Mike Fox on painful legacy of having computer hacker in his class

PUBLISHED: 10:42 02 January 2014 | UPDATED: 10:42 02 January 2014

Mike Fox

Mike Fox

Archant

A former prison teacher from Bromley is still without work after being dismissed from his job for allowing a convicted hacker into his class at HMP Isis.

But former Kensington and Chelsea College worker Mike Fox, of Widmore Green, says he had no idea why prisoner Nicholas Webber was behind bars when he agreed that he could study computing in his beginners’ class, run at the category C young offenders’ institution in Greenwich.

He was delighted when Webber, who had a high IQ, progressed rapidly and began studying at a more advanced level with another teacher.

But to his horror, Mr Fox said a second teacher sounded the alarm after Webber sparked a security alert when he appeared to be hacking into the prison’s computer system.

Even though there was no evidence found that Webber hacked into the prison system, Mr Fox was released from his position .

Webber, then 19, of Southsea, Hampshire, had been sentenced in March 2011 to five years’ detention for conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to make or supply articles for use in fraud and encouraging or assisting offences.

Mr Fox says he has found it impossible to find work elsewhere after the incident made national headlines last March during an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal.

Kensington and Chelsea College told the Bromley Times it had let Mr Fox go after it was unable to find him an alternative post.

Mr Fox, representing himself, lost his employment tribunal in Croydon in the spring of last year. Furthermore the panel ruled that there were no grounds for appeal to further deepen Mr Fox’s woes.

“Webber had been in my class for a couple of weeks,” says Mr Fox. “He had been put down for my level one class – that was for beginners.

“I was trying to get him into the level two class. I did not have to be with him for long to realise that he had a high IQ.”

Mr Fox recalls that Webber stood out from the other prisoners.

“He was quite a personable young lad,” he said.

“He did not really say much, but when he did say something it was a question of burning intelligence.

“It was quite astounding. He was really different to the others, he looked out of place. He was the geek.

“The day after my probation finished, Webber had an IT class in the morning and then my level two computer graphics class in the afternoon.

“However, at the end of the IT class, the teacher was screaming down the corridor, ‘he is hacking into the computer’. The worst I thought he could do was delete other students’ work.”

Mr Fox says he was “pulled into an office” and shown a “big dossier of newspaper clippings on Webber” from Webber’s original trial.

Mr Fox to this day claims that he was unaware of why Webber was behind bars.

“I have not worked as a teacher or in any position in further education since,” he says. “The whole thing has put me out of work.”

Unable to claim unemployment benefit due to his wife Cheryl being in full-time work as a civil servant, Mr Fox added: “I have been for job interviews. My wife has taken it all quite stoically, but she cannot hear me speak about it any more.”

Mr Fox remains hopeful he can find a job in further education and believes by telling his story he could find another prison teaching job.

The Times asked the Ministry of Justice for a comment about Mr Fox’s case. A spokesman said: “We do not comment on individuals.”

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