Edinburgh crime: Retired High Court advocate caught with child abuse images jailed for 12 months

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The former Edinburgh lawyer attempted to hide his depravity

A retired High Court advocate who was caught with a shocking haul of child abuse images on his computer has been jailed for 12 months. 

John Mayer downloaded more than 500 pictures depicting the sexual abuse of children, with some victims as young as 12 months old, between August 2019 and January 2021.

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Mayer, 72, attempted to hide his depravity by deleting the images and was also found to have used computer cleaning software in a bid to hide his online activity.

The former lawyer - who turned to writing crime novels following his retirement - denied the offences but was found guilty by a jury following a three day trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in December.

Mayer, who has since moved from Edinburgh to Exeter in Devon, returned to the dock for sentencing today, Tuesday, February 13. Sheriff Iain Nicol said he had to impose a sentence that would be “a deterrent to those who are, or are, thinking about getting involved in this abhorrent practice”. 

The sheriff said: “I do accept the number of Category A images is at the lower end and is a low number but I cannot simply ignore the Category B and Category C images.

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“The custody threshold has undoubtedly been met and I can see no reason to depart from the guidelines. I consider a custodial sentence is the most appropriate sentence.” 

Mayer was jailed for 12 months and was placed on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years. Solicitor Pat Campbell, defending, said his client “continues to assert he is not guilty of the offence but accepts the verdict of the jury”.

Mr Campbell told the court Mayer has suffered “personal and professional harm” due to his conviction and he “readily recognises offences of this type are serious”. Mr Campbell also said Mayer had recently been forced to reject an offer from film producers who were keen to dramatise one of his novels. Mayer is author of the Parliament House series of crime novels that feature the character Brogan McLane QC who fights against injustice.

An online biography states Mayer studied Law at the University of Edinburgh before becoming an Advocate in the Supreme Courts of Scotland. 

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The trial heard from forensic computer analyst David McGowan who was working with Police Scotland as a cyber crime officer at the time of Mayer’s arrest on January 28, 2021. The expert told the jury he discovered thumb nail images on a device belonging to Mayer after the original picture files had been deleted.

He said the images showed children aged between one and 14 being “subjected to sexual posing and non-penetrative sexual activity with other children and adults”.

Retired High Court advocate John Mayer downloaded more than 500 pictures depicting the sexual abuse of children.Retired High Court advocate John Mayer downloaded more than 500 pictures depicting the sexual abuse of children.
Retired High Court advocate John Mayer downloaded more than 500 pictures depicting the sexual abuse of children. | AL

Mr McGowan said he also found more serious images depicting children engaged in “penetrative sexual activity with other children and adults”.

The court was told there were 511 indecent images on the computer which were rated as 117 at Category A, 193 at Category B and 201 at Category C.

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The expert also said the laptop contained the ADB Shredder programme that is used to permanently delete computer files.

Mayer told the jury he was a retired advocate who had acted in High Court trials, worked with the International Criminal Court at The Hague and had specialised in fighting international child abuse and abduction.

He claimed he had never seen the child abuse images on his laptop and denied ever accessing them online. But the jury failed to believe his lies and after deliberating for four hours found him guilty by majority of two charges of possessing indecent images of children between August 9, 2019 and January 28, 2021.

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