THE family of a child victim of Scotland’s worst ever paedophile ring have told online perverts that watching child porn devastates lives.
Another family – whose child fell victim to the twisted network – said they felt “indescribable anguish” towards the man who abused their child after he and seven others were found guilty of various child sex acts.
The parents’ of two children who fell victim to the perverts – known as Child F and Child JL – hit out after the men were convicted at the High Court in Edinburgh.
The mother of Child F said: “For over 15 years James Rennie seemed the closest of family friends, and it is hard to put into words the extent of the betrayal he has exacted upon us, as many of the details may identify our family and son.
“It would be fair to state that he was with us, appearing to give friendship and support.
“To subsequently learn that he abused our son, and invited others to do the same, has been devastating. As a family we have had to learn to live, and cope with, the effect these horrific events have had.”
And they sent out an emotional plea to perverts who hide behind the lie that viewing child porn is a victimless crime.
They said: “To those individuals who have not yet been caught, but who are involved in the exploitation and abuse of children: consider this case carefully. Think about what will happen to these men, and the effects on the children and families involved.
“To those who consider themselves voyeurs – who think that these children are not real, that they are faceless and with no background: be assured that every child involved in every image has a name, parents, friends, and a background of which you know nothing, and a life ahead of them which you are complicit in destroying.
“Voyeurs of child pornography are paedophiles, and contribute directly to the abuse of children – claiming that you would never actually harm a child is delusional.”
The family went on to thank the police and prosecutors who helped bring their child’s tormentors to justice.
They said: “To the many professionals who have met with us, counselled us, and dealt with us as a family: we would like to extend our gratitude for their professionalism and willingness to go beyond the call of duty in their support.
“During this process we have been overwhelmed by the dedication to duty and professionalism offered by the police and procurator fiscal service. On a day-to-day basis the officers within Operation Algebra and those involved from the fiscal service have had to deal with horrific images and events to bring about this prosecution.
We would like to thank Dorothy Bain QC and those in her team for their dedication, dignity and respect in which she has dealt with the case, and the compassion she has shown us as a family.
“Finally we would like to thank DI Stuart Hood and his team from Lothian and Borders police, without whom our son and thousands of other children would remain at risk and in danger from the men involved.
“As a family we are indebted to DI Hood for the safety of our son. His patience in dealing with our endless questions has been unwavering, as has the support, compassion, kindness and friendship he has shown us, along with his team.
“Retribution for us as parents comes in the form of the justice that has been served.
“As yet, how this will affect our son’s relationships with peers and other adults as he grows older is unknown. As such, this is not the end for us, but the start of the process to rebuild our lives.”
The family of Child JL said they hoped their child would be able to lead a normal life.
In a statement on their behalf they said: “”The anguish I feel towards Mr Strachan is indescribable. I will never be able to forgive him for the sick acts that he committed against my son.
“I feel that no matter what punishment given to Mr Strachan it will never be able to compensate for the hurt, devastation and great deal of stress brought to me and my family.
“Mr Strachan used and abused our trust in order to satisfy his and others’ sick needs.
“I hope and pray that my son will be able to live and lead a normal happy childhood in the forthcoming years as every parent would wish and desire for their children.
“Our family is now trying to put this behind us, move forward and hopefully regain some normality back into our lives.”
They sent out a message of support to other affected by the sick group.
They said: “My thoughts and sympathy go to the other victim and his parents also involved in this case. I would like to thank the police officers from Lothian and Borders who were involved in the investigation for their hard work, time, effort and determination in bringing these men to our attention and for putting an end to the disgusting, indecent acts that these men had been committing against young innocent children.”
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: “The appalling crimes brought to light by Operation Algebra have shocked and saddened me, as I’m sure they have shocked most people across Scotland.
“Our thoughts today are with the victims and their families who, I am assured, have been getting the support they need to rebuild their lives. While none of us can imagine the pain that these evil crimes have brought upon them, I hope that the conviction of the perpetrators can also bring the families some comfort.
“When such horrific abuse comes to light, we seek re-assurances that our own children are being protected from those who may seek to cause them harm. This case again highlights the fact that the protection of our children is everyone’s business – government, agencies, communities and individuals.
“Scotland has the most robust child protection inspection regime in the UK. However, we continue to seek to strengthen our systems for protecting children by, for example, our current review of national guidance, by establishing the UK’s first hub for brokering child protection expertise, and by implementing new targeted inspections to drive up standards right across the country.
“I would also urge anyone who has a concern about a child’s safety to report that concern. The freephone 24/7 Child Protection Line 08000 223 222 provides the public with easy access to their local child protection services so a child they may be worried about can get the help they need.
“Meanwhile, a clear message should be sent to those involved in these crimes, that behind each image is a young victim and that demand for these images results in child abuse.
“The public can be assured that Scotland’s law enforcement agencies continue to work closely with their counterparts across the world to tackle internet and other high-tech crime and bring to justice those who seek to abuse or exploit our most vulnerable citizens.”
The eight men have been found guilty of a raft of child sex charges following a 10-week trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.
James Rennie, 38, along with Neil Strachan, 41, Ross Webber, 27, Colin Slaven, 23, Craig Boath, 24, Neil Campbell, 46, John Milligan, 40, and John Murphy, 43, were all found guilty of possessing indecent child images.
In total almost 125,000 shocking picture were seized by police during the investigation labelled “Operation Algebra”.
Strachan, Rennie, Webber, Boath and Milligan were also convicted of conspiring to abuse children.
Rennie along with Strachan went on to carry out the abuse of a toddler, known only as Child F when the tot was being the age of one and three years old.
Strachan – an HIV positive sex offender – also attempted to rape an 18 month-old-child and abused a six-year-old boy.
They will be sentenced later.