NEWS published 12.02am Saturday, March 25, 2000

Child campaigners hit out over sheriff's sentence

SHAMED Bay City Rollers star Derek Longmuir escaped a jail sentence yesterday for making child porn.

MPs and children's campaigners condemened the decision by a sheriff to only impose a 300-hour community service order.

A senior police officer had described the sickening haul found at the 49-year-old drummer's Edinburgh flat as "the worst I have ever seen".

Now Longmuir, who was found in possession of pornographic films, photos, videos and computer images mainly of children, faces a fight to hang on to his job as a nurse.

The sheriff took pity on the former pop idol - a founder member of the Scots band which took the charts by storm in the 70s.

What Edinburgh Sheriff Court did not hear about was his close relationship with a 15-year-old Portuguese boy who was found in Longmuir's flat when it was raided by the police.

Among the obscene material recovered were pictures of Nelson Queiros - who he had met on holiday in Lisbon - naked from the waist down.

Last night, Pauline Thomson, of Scottish People Against Child Abusers, described the sentence as "appalling".

She said: "What appals me is there is no consistency in sentencing these people, one goes to jail and another does not.

"The courts are sending out the wrong message. They are saying look at child pornography and, if you get caught, plead guilty and you will get away with it. These children were victims and someone's children."

Director of ChildLine Scotland Anne Houston said they were disappointed he was not jailed. She said: "To purchase or download child pornography is always an act of child abuse."

Lyndsay McIntosh, Scottish Conservative law and order spokesman, said: "If you are looking to make an example of someone having the worst kind of child pornography, 300 hours' community service does not look at it."

Longmuir's lawyer had begged Sheriff Isobel Poole, QC, not to send him to prison because he would lose his job as a nurse and his house.

Immediately after the decision, the ex-star was smuggled out of a back door.

Longmuir had admitted possessing indecent films, videos and photos of children and to making indecent photos and computer images of children by downloading them from the Internet. His flat near Edinburgh's Holyrood Park was raided in September 1998 following a tip-off to police.

Detective Sergeant Alan Eadie, who led the inquiry, said: "I've had 21 years in the job and dealt with a large number of sex-abuse inquiries but this material was extremely obscene and some of the worst I have ever seen."

The haul included 73 floppy discs containing 117 sex scenes with children.

Longmuir maintained the computer and porn belonged to an American friend and while studying for exams he had used the "history" option to retrieve the sites his pal had visited.

Robbie Burnett, defending, told the court the law was aimed at preventing people from taking pictures or making simulated pornography.

He stated: "There is no suggestion in any way that he was involved in any of those aspects of pornography."

All Longmuir had done was to download material on to four discs which were then put away in a locked drawer.

Mr Burnett said Longmuir was a dedicated nurse. He had been suspended from his work and his life would be destroyed if he lost his job.

He added: "Despite being a celebrity for many years, he doesn't have any money. He has found his vocation caring for people and he is clearly held in high regard."

Sheriff Poole told Longmuir that the courts took a serious view where children were involved in computer porn offences.

But she said there were "substantial mitigatory" factors which allowed her to impose the community service order.

Longmuir was placed on the sex offenders register.

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh Royal Infirmary said an internal investigation, had begun.