Top Oxford University Hebrew scholar sentenced to jail over child pornography
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Top Oxford University Hebrew scholar sentenced to jail over child pornography

Jan Joosten receives a year in France, ordered put on country’s sex offender list for downloading tens of thousands of images and video, some depicting rape of minors

Screen capture from video of Oxford University professor of theology Jan Joosten during a lecture in November 2019. (YouTube)
Screen capture from video of Oxford University professor of theology Jan Joosten during a lecture in November 2019. (YouTube)

A French court on Monday sentenced an Oxford University professor of theology to a year in prison for downloading tens of thousands of images and videos of child sex abuse.

Jan Joosten, 61, regius professor of Hebrew at Christ Church college, was also to be put on France’s sex offender list.

Joosten, who has studied in Israel and the US, is considered one of the top biblical scholars in the world.

He admitted that over a six-year period in 2014-2020 he downloaded 28,000 images and videos, some of which included depictions of child rape, AFP reported. His activities were uncovered following an investigation by the police cybercrime team in Strasbourg.

Joosten reportedly told the court his addiction to the offending material was “a secret garden, in contradiction with myself.”

The court also ordered Joosten to undergo a three-year program of treatment and banned him from any activity that would give him contact with minors, the Oxford Blue, the university’s independent newspaper, reported. He has not yet entered prison as his sentence may be amended by an independent judge.

In a statement the university said Joosten has been suspended by the Faculty of Oriental Studies and Christ Church “pending further action.”

“We have informed any staff and students who would have had contact with him and have provided them with the contacts of the University’s welfare and support services in case any of them require additional support,” the statement said.

The college, in a statement to students, said it is “fully committed to safeguarding and has robust policies and processes in place.”

“Our thoughts are with anyone affected by this news,” the statement said. “If anyone requires immediate support, they should contact Christ Church or the police.”

Joosten’s defense attorneys said that his family knew of his offenses, and urged he not be imprisoned because he was a first-time offender and had little risk of reoffending, The Guardian reported. Also, he had voluntarily sought psychiatric help, they argued.

Joosten has not yet decided if he will appeal the ruling later this week, a judicial source said.

A father of four, Joosten had been a pastor for six years in Belgium. He taught for 20 years at the University of Strasbourg and joined Oxford in 2014. He was also until recently the editor-in-chief of Vetus Testamentum, a top Old Testament study journal, The Guardian said.

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