A PERVERT who used the internet to groom young girls has been given a life sentence following a major police investigation involving more than six forces.
Gordon McDonald, 57, would pose as a teenage boy, young girl, or a transvestite, to engage in sexually explicit exchanges over the web with girls aged between 12 and 15. He had cyber-victims all over the country.
He lured one 13-year-old girl to a meeting where he sexually assaulted her, bribed one girl to stay in touch after obtaining lewd snaps of her and liked to be called “daddy”.
The married father-of-two’s lawyer claimed in court he was “a law-abiding family man” until he became obsessed by pornography and internet chat rooms.
McDonald, of Penicuik, yesterday pleaded guilty to 13 charges between November 2005 and March 2011 and will have to serve a minimum of four years behind bars before becoming eligible for parole.
Judge Lady Stacey told him: “I regard you as a danger to young girls. It will be up to the parole board when – if ever – you are released.”
Lady Stacey imposed a life-long restriction order on McDonald because of the serious risk he poses to young girls.
Solicitor advocate Matthew Aunchcloss, defending, told the High Court in Glasgow: “We are allowing strangers into our children’s bedrooms through the internet. Mr McDonald first looked at adult porn then descended into indecent pictures of children and contacted young girls.
“He says it was completely out of control and only came to an end with the police knocking on his door.”
A spokesman for the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) – which aims to protect children’s safety online – welcomed McDonald’s jailing while pouring scorn on his defence of being corrupted by an obsession with online adult material.
She said: “Most people who view indecent images of children do so because they have a sexual interest in children. While viewing adult pornography may contribute to an escalation of sexual deviance in someone who has a predisposition to sexually exploit children, it is unlikely that exposure to sexual images of adults will be the exclusive causal factor in developing a sexual interest in children.”
The court heard how the maintenance engineer arranged to meet one 13-year-old girl after school and drove her to a deserted industrial estate where they would strip naked and perform indecent acts on each other – he would then drive her home, dropping her off just round the corner from her house.
Eventually, the girl told a teacher and police began a major investigation which involved Strathclyde Police, Lothian and Borders, Metropolitan Police, West Mercia Police, Nottinghamshire Police and Avon and Somerset.
Detective Chief Inspector John Weir, of Strathclyde Police’s Public Protection Unit, said: “Today marks the end of an intense, sensitive and complex investigation.
“This has clearly been an incredibly difficult time for the victims and their families and I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to them for their courage and determination in coming forward and speaking to us. There is no doubt in my mind that their testimonies proved vital in helping to ensure McDonald was arrested by police and prevented from preying on other children.”
When police raided McDonald’s home in Cuiken Terrace, Penicuik, they discovered a sickening haul of 4432 indecent images, both stills and video clips.
Officers were able to establish the identities of his victims when they seized computer equipment and a camera.
Advocate depute Jane Farquharson, prosecuting, told how McDonald used a series of aliases when logging on to teenage chat rooms or communicating one-to-one with girls using the MSN link. In one exchange he called himself “daddy” and told one young girl how he would like to have sex.
The virtual world poses real danger
Jon Brown, NSPCC sexual abuse expert, said it is almost impossible to know the true identity of people in internet chatrooms.
He said perverts have been quick to take advantage of this. He said: “The internet can be a great tool but it has also made it much easier for people to access material for sexual gratification and can reduce their inhibitions. Where people have a pre-existing sexual interest in children internet pornography and adult chat rooms can be an encouragement.
“Parents need to teach children to be wary of talking to strangers online. There is no way of knowing for sure who someone is when you meet them online. Sex offenders will go to great lengths to get close to children.
“We would urge anyone worried about someone’s behaviour towards a child to contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000. Children and young people can contact ChildLine on 0800 1111 or visit www.childline.org.uk.”
Access to extreme material ‘greater than ever before’
Laura Tomson, senior development worker with Edinburgh-based charity Zero Tolerance which works nationally to prevent men’s violence against women and children, said: “Access to violent, extreme pornography is greater than ever before. Young people, from just nine years of age, are increasingly accessing porn on their mobile phones, at home and in school, and are even creating their own.
“The women and girls abused in pornography are often either under-age or deliberately depicted as being very young, which promotes the idea that it’s acceptable to pursue young girls for sex.
“At Zero Tolerance we have been working with young women and men who are worried about the effects of pornography on their lives and relationships. They want to challenge the normalisation of porn, but it’s very difficult for them when so many adults insist that porn is just ‘harmless fun’ and that disliking it is prudish and boring.
“It’s time for Scotland to acknowledge the harm caused by pornography. Porn isn’t ‘sexy’ – it presents a warped version of sexuality based on the abuse of women and children.
“If we want a Scotland in which girls can grow up safe from abuse and objectification, and boys can express their sexuality without feeling pressure to be aggressive and controlling, then we need to start taking responsibility by challenging pornography.”