TW: child pornography, sexual abuse

Philosophy professor Peter King has been jailed for possessing almost 3,000 indecent images. He was sentenced to seven months in custody and given a sexual harm prevention order.

Formerly a tutor at Pembroke, the college suspended King when informed that he was to appear in court last month. A statement released by the College said: “Pembroke was made aware of the police investigation and charges against Peter King, who provided some Philosophy teaching here, only the day before his court appearance in February. He was immediately suspended from his employment”.

In his case at Oxford Crown Court, King pleaded guilty to three counts of producing indecent images of children and one count of possessing a prohibited image of a child. James Mulholland, King’s representative, said the defendant had an “addiction or compulsion” to “repeatedly but intermittently” accessing indecent images of children. King compared himself to “someone who starts a sticker collection and wants the whole set”.

King was previously cautioned by police in 2007 after accessing illegal material, which he claimed he had used to research an article on the ethics of child pornography.

The paper, entitled “No Plaything: Ethical issues concerning child pornography”, discussed “the possibility of a morally acceptable form of child pornography”, though ultimately concluded that it was morally wrong. Regardless of his warning, prosecutors said that King continued to download images in “a repeated pattern of behaviour”.

King’s search history and hard drive showed he had regularly accessed illegal websites and had searched for terms such as “schoolgirl”. He was arrested in 2018 for visiting a Russian file-sharing website.

A Pembroke spokesperson said: “The college moved swiftly to put in place welfare and counselling arrangements for students and staff, and alternative teaching arrangements and academic support for all affected students.”

Having studied at Brasenose, King taught at Christ Church and Somerville before joining Pembroke, though the University said he was not centrally employed and had no faculty duties.

The University of Oxford has been contacted for comment.

Image Credit to David Smith / Wikimedia Commons. License: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


For Cherwell, maintaining editorial independence is vital. We are run entirely by and for students. To ensure independence, we receive no funding from the University and are reliant on obtaining other income, such as advertisements. Due to the current global situation, such sources are being limited significantly and we anticipate a tough time ahead – for us and fellow student journalists across the country.

So, if you can, please consider donating. We really appreciate any support you’re able to provide; it’ll all go towards helping with our running costs. Even if you can't support us monetarily, please consider sharing articles with friends, families, colleagues - it all helps!

Thank you!