THE parents of a baby abused by notorious paedophile James Rennie have warned that other children could be put at risk after his minimum jail sentence was dramatically slashed.
Rennie, one of the ringleaders of Scotland’s biggest child abuse network, has won the right to be considered for release four-and-a-half years early.
The former chief executive of city-based LGBT Scotland is serving a life sentence for molesting a three-month-old and for conspiring to get access to children in order to abuse them.
The minimum term the 40-year-old, formerly of Marionville Road, Edinburgh, must serve before being considered for parole was cut from 13 years to eight-and-a-half years at the Appeal Court in Edinburgh yesterday. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill vowed afterwards to change the law urgently to stop other criminals convicted of “truly appalling crimes” from having their sentences cut.
But the father of Rennie’s victim warned that the court ruling had already increased the risks of him preying on other children. “We have concerns that someone convicted of these offences will likely re-offend,” he said. “It could be four-and-a-half years sooner that Mr Rennie could now attempt to re-offend. It might be somebody else’s child.”
The victim’s mother, who was in court to hear the decision, added: “It is some comfort to know, as the judges stressed today, that release is not automatic after the period has been served. The most important thing is our son is fine and doing really, really well.”
Rennie, a former secondary school teacher, abused his victim over a number of years. His trial at the High Court in Edinburgh saw e-mails and chatroom logs in which he was offering to let others abuse the little boy he looked after on occasions.
The court then heard that he was “someone who allowed his profound interest in the sexual abuse of children to engulf his entire life”. The investigation into the paedophile network he ran, Operation Algebra, found that Rennie had links with sex offenders in the US and the Netherlands.
Rennie’s sentence was cut following a landmark ruling by judges on how to calculate the minimum term to be served by offenders who are given an Order for Lifelong Restriction. Several other sex offenders have taken advantage of that ruling to successfully challenge their minimum prison terms.
Among them was Rennie’s co-accused Neil Strachan, 43, who was originally ordered to serve at least 16 years in prison but saw his term almost halved on appeal to nine years.
City rapist Ryan Smith, 28, who was originally told he would serve a minimum of seven years in prison in 2009, saw his sentence cut on appeal to four years. Mr MacAskill said he would bring forward the necessary changes to the law before the end of the year.
He said: “These offenders have been convicted of truly appalling crimes. We of course respect the independence of the courts – but I am aware that many people will be concerned that the minimum punishment sentences in these cases have been reduced, and that is why we are bringing forward the legal remedy that the Lord Justice General called for in his judgment earlier this year.”