A professor deemed by many to be the world's most pre-eminent scholar of the Hebrew Bible has been convicted on charges of child pornography.
Police say Jan Joosten, who held the prestigious position of Regius Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford, had downloaded 28,000 images and videos depicting the most serious forms of child abuse.
Joosten, who spent six years working as a pastor in Belgium, taught at the University of Strasbourg for 20 years before joining Oxford's Christ Church college in 2014. Admitting the facts of the case, the 61-year-old professor said he was relieved to be arrested, describing his sordid addiction as a "secret garden, in contradiction with myself”.
Prosecutors said that the material was downloaded over a six-year period, between 2014 and May 2020 and contained material depicting child rape. Joosten was captured after a lengthy police investigation by a cybercrime unit in Strasbourg called LION (laboratoire d’investigation opérationnelle du numérique).
Joosten, a father of four, was sentenced to a year in prison by the Saverne criminal court in France and will be placed on the sex offenders register. He was not immediately committed to prison and his sentence is set to be supervised and may even be amended by an independent judge at a later date. The court also ruled that he must attend a three-year programme of treatment and prohibited him from any activity that would bring him into contact with minors.
The defence argued that Joosten should not be imprisoned because he willingly sought out psychiatric help and is unlikely to reoffend.
Following his sentencing, Oxford University confirmed that Joosten had "been suspended by the Faculty of Oriental Studies and Christ Church pending further action".
The university added: "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 that any of them require additional support.”
As of Wednesday, Joosten's teaching profile is no longer live on the website of Oxford's Faculty of Theology and Religion. His name and credentials do still show up on the Faculty of Oriental Studies page, though he is listed as 'Suspended'.
Christ Church college, where Joosten taught, added in a statement:
“The University has informed any staff and students who would have had contact with him and has provided them with the contacts of the welfare and support services, in case that any of them require additional support.
“Christ Church is fully committed to safeguarding and has robust policies and processes in place. Our thoughts are with anyone affected by this news. If anyone requires immediate support, they should contact Christ Church or the police.”