A PAEDOPHILE was twice allowed to visit a children’s soft-play centre to go on court ordered access visits to see his daughter. The child sex offender, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was convicted of a sexual attack on a 12-year-old girl.
Sheriff Peter Braid sanctioned the supervised access visits to Jungle Gemz in Musselburgh’s High Street during a hearing at Haddington Sheriff Court.
The decision to hold the visits at the play centre was today blasted by its owners, who branded the move “totally disgusting” and pledged to take legal action to prevent any repeat.
The sex offender’s ex- partner, the mother of the five-year-old girl, also slammed the choice of venue as “completely wrong”.
And parents who use the soft-play centre said they were “outraged” by the move.
The visits took place in both July and August, with father and daughter accompanied by a female solicitor chosen by the court to supervise.
The father, who lives in Portobello, was convicted after a trial in February of a sex attack on a 12-year-old girl and a separate attack on a woman. He was given 200 hours community service, put on the sexual offender’s register and put on a three-year probation order.
Alex Brown, owner of Jungle Gemz, said: “I’m totally disgusted that a court can arrange these visits without telling us. We’ve been duped and we’re taking legal advice to ensure this will never be repeated.
“We wouldn’t have allowed such a visit in our centre. It was sheer negligence to disregard children’s safety. We’ll be looking for a full apology.”
The centre, which opened in July, caters primarily to children aged one to nine, with a soft-play area and a party room upstairs.
Centre manager Monica Brown said: “We didn’t know who this man was until after the visits when someone brought it to our attention. We’ve had a staff meeting and I’ve told everyone that this man is not to be allowed back again.
“There are many other places where a man like this could have supervised visits with his child, not at a soft-play centre with so many children present.”
Parent Lauren Smith, 24, whose three-year-old son goes to the centre, was left outraged at the paedophile’s visits. She said: “It’s shocking that no-one at Jungle Gemz was told this was happening.
“Parents can go into the soft-play area with their children, but my son prefers to go in on his own. I want to know my son is safe in there. It’s absolutely appalling.”
The paedophile’s former partner said the couple broke-up four years ago due to his mood swings and depression, and the father’s contact with his daughter stopped when the sex crime allegations came to light in March last year.
A string of court hearings to determine access visits had been held since his conviction.She said: “He was granted a three-hour visit once a month. I was disgusted that the court could send a convicted paedophile to a soft-play centre, even if it was supervised. It’s completely wrong.”
It is understood that the choice of venue was not contested by solicitors from either side before being signed off by the sheriff.
The father’s supervised access visits are now being held at the Family Mediation Lothian (FHL) centre in George Street.
The mother added: “It’s still not a situation I want my daughter to be in. He’s a very disturbed man, a menace. It’s an emotionally damaging situation for her.”
A spokeswoman for the Judicial Office for Scotland said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on a private custody case.” She confirmed that the father’s recent appeal against conviction for the sex attacks had been refused.