A former teacher and chaplain at a county school has been jailed after he pleaded guilty to inciting ten boys to engage in sexual activity over the internet by pretending to be a teenage girl.

Michael Carrigan carried out the offences over a seven year period after he started teaching at Lucton School, Worcester Crown Court heard.

Christopher Lester, prosecuting, said Carrigan had breached a position of trust as five of the boys he contacted through social media were pupils at the school where he was a chaplain and taught personal and social health education.

The 45-year-old would pretend to be a teenage girl, on one occasion calling himself Lydia, and the conversations he started would quickly become sexual, Mr Lester said. He would invite the boys, aged between 13 and 16, to send pictures of themselves engaging in sexual activity and was successful in this once or twice, though most of the conversations would gradually fade out over time.

The offences came to light after police found his details when they investigated an internet company and raided his home. The boys said they were "shocked," Mr Lester said. One boy said he had had a high degree of respect for Carrigan and another said, "he was a teacher, I trusted him," Mr Lester told the court.

Carrigan, now of Hawthorn Close, Tottington, Bury, pleaded guilty to ten charges of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, five of these while in a position of trust. He also pleaded guilty to five charges of having indecent images of children. Police found five pictures and nine movies in category A, the most serious, 204 images and 15 movies in category B and 1045 images in category C on his computer after the search on April 7 last year.

Paul Mytton, defending, said Carrigan had been suffering from mental health problems and he had "fallen very low." He handed in a number of references showing Carrigan to be of positive good character and pleading for him to be spared a jail sentence.

Judge Robert Juckes, QC, said Carrigan had been a teacher with a highly successful career and had been expected to set "high standards morally" as a chaplain.

He said Carrigan was now "a man completely stripped of his good character, his self-esteem and his mental health who has been completely humiliated."

He was given a total jail sentence of two years and a sexual offences prevention order banning him from contact with children under 16 for ten years. He will also have to register as a sex offender indefinitely.

Following Carrigan's conviction, West Mercia Police confirmed the investigation was instigated as part of Project Spade, a national investigation coordinated by the National Crime Agency regarding purchasers of indecent DVDs and videos from a Canadian-based internet company.

Detective Sergeant Mark Walters said: "Carrigan abused his position of trust to take advantage of young people for his own gratification. Today the court has passed sentence for his predatory behaviour.

"I would like to pay tribute to the victims in this case and for their cooperation throughout this investigation; their bravery has meant that we were able to put him before the court."

Paul Thorne, the bursar at Lucton School issued this statement: "We are sad to hear of such news about Mr Carrigan, a former teacher who left Lucton well over a year ago.

"Following our enquiries, the investigating police officers have told us that all of the offences were online, there was nothing physical, and that nothing happened at Lucton School."