Scottish Pedophile Ring Includes Gay Youth Activists
by Kilian Melloy
Friday May 8, 2009
James Rennie (top, second right) and Neil Strachen
(bottom, far right), both involved in GLBT equality
causes, were among eight men convicted on
child pornography charges in Edinburgh
A group of accused pedophiles were found guilty in Scotland on a collective 54 counts.
In a shocking twist, one of the eight men whom jurors found guilty was an advocate for LGBT
youth, while another was also active in GLBT equality causes.
James Rennie has served LGBT Youth Scotland as the group’s chief executive, and had advised the
Scottish government on gay issues; he had also met Tony Blair and the Queen.
News accounts did not say whether Rennie abused his position in order to gain access to youthful
victims who turned to the organization for help, but Rennie did, according to reports, abuse the
children of friends, as did Neil Strachen, identified along with Rennie as a "ringleader" in the
Such treacherous behavior is not unusual among child molesters. Observers have noted that most
young victims are assaulted either by a relative or a family friend. Random attacks in which
strangers target children do happen, but they are relatively uncommon.
The vast majority of pedophiles identify as heterosexual, but gay child molesters are not unheard of.
The case sent out shock waves because many of the convicted offenders were seen as respected
members of the community, their ranks including a Church of Scotland elder, newspaper accounts
Strachan, according to a May 7 article in the UK newspaper The Telegraph, had also been
associated with a youth group, and, like Rennie, had been an advocate for GLBT equality.
Strachen came in for a particularly harsh depiction from the state prosecutor, Dorothy Bain, who
called him "polluted by deviant compulsion," the article said.
"In reality he is someone who allowed his profound interest in the sexual abuse of children to engulf
his entire life," Bain added.
The article said that Strachen and Rennie had been photographed molesting the three-month-old
child of friends, and that Rennie had distributed the image to others.
Rennie also invited others to assault the child, the article said.
The family of the infant stated, "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."
The family’s statement continued, "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."
One of Strachan’s victims was a child of only a year and a half, whose mother said, "Mr Strachan
used and abused our trust in order to satisfy his and others’ sick needs."
The case extended well beyond the eight Scottish men snared in a sting operation that began when a
computer technician found a cache of photos on Strachan’s computer. The article said that over 300
individuals in America, Germany, Australia, Poland, and The Netherlands were also implicated.
Strachen and Rennie, along with three others, were found guilty on conspiracy charges. The men
reportedly had plotted to carry out assaults on children.
Three others were included in guilty verdicts returned on all eight on charges of child pornography.
The crimes spanned four years and involved a total of 125,000 images, the article said.
The quest to bring down the ring was also international in scope, a Times of London article from
May 8 said, with American FBI agents and Microsoft employees lending their expertise to the ten-
A separate Times article (below) from May 8 quoted the judge in the case, Lord Bannatyne, as
calling the assaults perpetrated by the men "utterly horrific."
May 8, 2009
Paedophile gang preyed on children of close friends
A paedophile gang that carried out a series of attacks on children and infants, including a three-
month-old baby, were found guilty yesterday at the High Court in Edinburgh in a groundbreaking
The abusers, including a respected youth leader — who had met Tony Blair and the Queen — a
civil servant, a bank clerk and a Church of Scotland elder, were part of the largest paedophile
network to have been dismantled in Scotland.
The convictions were the culmination of an 18-month international police operation codenamed
Algebra, which has identified a further 70 suspects in 16 regions of Britain and led to action against
another 35 suspected child abusers.
Police and the prosecution hailed the verdicts as an important advance in the fight against child
sexual abuse. For the first time in Scottish legal history the Crown brought a case of conspiracy to
participate in the commission of sexual offences.
Advocate Depute Dorothy Bain, QC, asked for a full risk assessment for two members of the gang;
Neil Strachan, who has previous convictions for child abuse, and James Rennie, a respected youth
leader and gay rights campaigner who met Mr Blair and the Queen in the course of his work.
The move would allow the court to impose an order for lifelong restriction, which would enable a
judge to set a minimum sentence, and the men would be freed only when the parole board
considered they were no longer a risk to the public.
Lord Bannatyne, the judge, described the gang’s crimes as “utterly horrific”.
The seven men and seven women of the jury sat through nine weeks of evidence, which presented a
selection from a total of 125,000 still and video images shared among the eight men on trial, and a
log of internet chatroom conversations revealing the extent to which child-sex abuse had engulfed
These digital records detailed how Strachan and Rennie were able to breach relationships of trust
formed with friends, procure and abuse their children, then invite their paedophile circle to assault
the children too.
Detective Inspector Stuart Hood, who led Operation Algebra, said that this breach of trust had been
horrific and hugely significant, illustrating the plausibility which these serial sex offenders brought
to their apparently normal lives.
Rennie was able to abuse the three-month-old baby of close friends without them suspecting him.
He gave the child presents, was allowed to change its nappies and babysat for the couple. It was
only when police arrived with images of abuse that the couple realised any crime had been
In a statement issued last night the couple said: “For 15 years James Rennie seemed the closest of
family friends, and . . . it would be fair to state that he was with us, appearing to give friendship and
support, during the most difficult and vulnerable times in our lives. 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.”
The parents of two children attacked by Strachan faced further heartache. Strachan is HIV positive
and the children had to be tested for the virus.
“The anguish I feel towards Mr Strachan is indescribable,” said the boys’ mother. “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.”
Detective Superintendent Allan Jones, of Lothian & Borders Police, said that the case was one of
the most challenging to be investigated by the force and “represented the largest paedophile
network dismantled in Scotland”.
“As the investigation unfolded it revealed a web of people who had a common interest in child
sexual abuse. They made initial contact via the internet and used it to share vile imagery and discuss
the abuse of children,” he said.
He said of the abusers: “All led classic double lives. Some of them were respected members of their
professions and communities.
All eight men who were convicted yesterday will be sentenced next month.
The convicted and their crimes
Neil Strachan 41, paint company engineer. Sex attacks on children; conspiracy to abuse children;
owning, making and distributing images of child-sex abuse
James Rennie 38, gay rights campaigner. Sex attacks on children; conspiracy to abuse children;
owning, making and distributing images of child-sex abuse; attempting to defeat the ends of justice
by accessing insecure internet connections
Ross Webber 27, bank clerk. Conspiracy to abuse children; owning, making and distributing images
of child-sex abuse
Craig Boath 24, insurance worker. Conspiracy to abuse children; owning, making and distributing
images of child-sex abuse
John Milligan 40, civil servant. Conspiracy to abuse children; owning, making and distributing
images of child-sex abuse
Colin Slaven 23, IT worker. Owning and making images of child-sex abuse
Neil Campbell 46, church elder. Owning, making and distributing images of child-sex abuse
John Murphy 44, former teacher. Owning, making and distributing images of child-sex abuse