A DISGRACED north Hampshire teacher has been jailed for three years after he squeezed children's bottoms and filmed up young girls skirts in a school cupboard.

Benjamin Sarfas appeared at Winchester Crown Court this morning for sentencing, having pleaded guilty to 19 counts of sexual offences against children.

The 31-year-old, of Springvale Road, Kings Worthy, was a newly qualified teacher at Kempshott Junior School, in Homesteads Road, when he began abusing children in 2011, continuing up until his arrest in March last year.

Dozens of family members of the nine victims, who were all girls aged between eight and 11, were in the public gallery as Sarfas was sent down.

Prosecutor Kerry Maylin told the court that the offences came to light when one victim was overheard telling a friend that Sarfas had poked her bottom and asked her to go in a cupboard and close her eyes.

Miss Maylin explained that Sarfas was warned by other teachers about being alone with girls.

She added: "He had been spoken to by other members of staff at the school that this was inappropriate. His response to any such advice when they were trying to protect him was to say 'it's just because I'm a man. If I was a female primary school teacher you wouldn't say the same'."

The headteacher had also warned him about being too familiar with the children.

Several of the 19 counts related to Sarfas squeezing the bottoms of girls over the top of their clothes.

He also asked girls to go into a school cupboard and close their eyes, before using a torch to film up their skirt, the court heard.

A count of voyeurism related to a file found on Sarfas' computer with videos showing one of his victims repeatedly taking her clothes off and putting them on again, while Sarfas asked her to practice changing.

Another victim was asked to reveal sports clothes that she was wearing underneath another outfit, before Sarfas ran his hands up her thigh.

Miss Maylin told the court that Sarfas asked one victim to play the "cloakroom game" during which she was blindfolded whilst Sarfas filmed up her skirt.

The court heard that Sarfas was engaged and due to be married in April last year, but his fiancée called off the wedding when Sarfas was arrested in March.

Miss Maylin said his ex fiancee, who was also a teacher, told police Sarfas had admitted to her that he thought about young girls.

She added: "As a teacher herself she said she knows what he's done will affect these children for the rest of their lives. She said Mr Sarfas was oblivious to that harm."

Impact statements were read out from the parents of the victims.

One mother said: "She's still frightened of seeing him. She doesn't like talking about what happened and does have nightmares. She doesn't want to get comfortable with teachers in case it happens again."

Another said: "It led to her feeling disgusted with herself."

One mother said her daughter had become "withdrawn and isolated from her peers", adding: "She's lost her zest, it's devastating as her mother to see this and I'm not sure she will ever get it back... We are devastated and angry. I have lost faith in the teaching profession and feel disgusted at myself for letting this happen under my nose."

A statement from Fiona Craig, headteacher at Kempshott Junior School, read out in court, said: "The staff are shocked and upset by what he's done and this has led to many doubting their own abilities. Staff felt they should have known what was going on."

She added: "It will damage the teaching profession which is based on trust."

Defending Sarfas, Dee Connolly said his life was ruined, adding: "His chances of a normal life and marriage are shattered and the future is rather bleak for him."

She said Sarfas told his family what he had done following his arrest, and they were in court for the sentencing and had provided character references.

She added: "This man was of impeccable character and he went into teaching for the right reasons because he wanted to help. He loved his job and his fiancée. He's now lost his job and fiancée."

Miss Connolly said her client had been seeing a therapist and was sorry for the pain he had caused.

Sarfas was sentenced to two years in prison for the seven counts of sexual assault on a child under the age of 13, 12 months in prison for the 11 counts of taking indecent photographs of a child, to run consecutively, and four months in prison for one count of voyeurism, to run concurrently, totalling three years in jail.

Judge Keith Cutler said: "All these actions can be described as disgusting and appalling, the effects on these children has been significant, blighting what should have been a carefree youth."

He added: "Your actions must have had an impact on male teachers in the profession and how they are regarded."

The judge said Sarfas saw children as "sexual objects" adding: "You began to act upon your fantasies, you got far too close to the children, playing in the school yard at play time and being on a far too familiar level with them."

He described Sarfas' actions as "an extreme abuse of trust", adding: "I share the shock and horror that's been expressed in the statements before me that a teacher could have done this."

Following the sentencing, detective constable Andy Panter, from the Northern Child Abuse Investigation Team, said: "In this case, Sarfas used his position to take advantage of young girls. Those young victims have all shown a huge amount of courage to speak out about what happened.

"All of his victims have been identified and offered support.”