Neil Strachan – Repeat Sex Offender – Scottish Mom calls for Mark’s Law

Strachan, from Edinburgh, was a trusted friend of the boy’s family. What they did not know was he had already served a three-year jail term for repeatedly molesting another child.


Neil Strachan was being monitored by police and social workers when he sexually abused the 18-month-old boy he was babysitting. The child’s mother is demanding an inquiry

A MOTHER told last night of the devastation wreaked on her family by a convicted child molester, and said she dreaded the day she would have to explain to her son about the horrific abuse he suffered.

Speaking publicly for the first time, the mother of the boy who was abused by Neil Strachan when he was only 18 months old opened her heart and told of the trauma of learning her son could have been infected with HIV.

She also demanded an inquiry into how the registered sex offender was able to carry out the abuse and called for a new law to ensure parents were informed if sexual predators could have access to their children.

The woman wants to know how a man who was being monitored by police and social workers was allowed to prey on her son. He distributed an image of himself abusing the boy while he was babysitting him over Hogmanay in 2005.

The 41-year-old was convicted of a string of lewd and libidinous acts on children on Thursday, after a nine-week trial that saw eight men found guilty of a catalogue of child abuse charges.

Strachan, from Edinburgh, was a trusted friend of the boy’s family. What they did not know was he had already served a three-year jail term for repeatedly molesting another child.

The woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of her children, talked of the terrible impact the crimes had had on her family, and of her anguish at learning that the man she had trusted enough to let him look after her two children was a child molester who was HIV positive.

The woman went on: “The police say (Strachan] was being supervised. But that’s rubbish – how could he have been?”

Her comments have reignited the debate over the extent to which parents should be informed if convicted sex offenders are living in their area.

The move has been dubbed “Mark’s Law”, after Mark Cummings, eight, who was murdered by Stuart Leggate, a convicted sex offender. The boy’s mother launched a campaign for the sharing of information about known paedophiles.

Lothian and Borders Police said they were satisfied Strachan had been monitored “appropriately”. But last night – as the force refused to disclose details of a review into the case or comment on reports that Strachan had been visited by child protection officers only three times a year – the mother accused police of “brushing the matter under the carpet”.

She said: “I just couldn’t believe it when I found out he was a child molester. I couldn’t take it in. It’s left me completely numb.

“They couldn’t have been monitoring him. If they had been monitoring him properly, they would have known he could have come into contact with my boy. They would have contacted me to say, ‘ Strachan’s a sex offender – be careful what you do with your children’.

“Strachan couldn’t have been monitored. It’s absolute rubbish to say they did. I think there should be an investigation.”

Strachan and the seven other members of what police say was Scotland’s biggest paedophile ring have yet to be sentenced, but the mother said no punishment could compensate for the abuse.

“It doesn’t matter how long he is jailed for. He might spend the next 15 years in prison, but what’s to stop him going out and re- offending again?”

She told how Strachan had befriended her family and been regarded as a “really caring, loving person”, and went on: “I still cannot believe it, I just cannot take it in. He came across as someone who would do anything to help you – anything.

“He’s ruined my life and he’s ruined my mum’s life. She’s devastated.”

She said she feared the effect the abuse will have on her boy, now four, in the future.

“I dread the day I have to tell him what happened,” she said. “My boy seems fine now. But maybe we’ll have to wait until he’s older before we find out how it’s affected him.

Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, who will today visit police officers who ran the investigation that has uncovered a total of 70 suspected paedophiles, said lessons had to be learned.

“I’m assured that any operational issues that emerge will be shared with agencies across Scotland. The public would expect nothing less,” he said.

He added that Strachan’s crimes predated new multi-agency protection arrangements designed to improve the risk assessment and monitoring of sex offenders after they have been released from prison.

Mr MacAskill recently announced plans for a pilot project that would allow parents or guardians to seek a disclosure check against someone who has access to their children.

Opposition politicians back the move – but want ministers to go further.

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie said: “The Scottish Government should use GPS satellite tracking to monitor sex offenders released from prison. And it should consider using lie detector tests on paedophiles as part of their probation conditions if they are released from prison.”

Labour’s justice spokesman Richard Baker said: “We welcome the pilot scheme, but that should not necessarily be the end of the matter.”

A MOTHER’S FIGHT FOR ‘MARK’S LAW’

THE mother of a Glasgow boy murdered by a convicted child molester has spearheaded a campaign for new laws to inform members of the public of paedophiles who pose a risk to their children.

Margaret Ann Cummings has fought for the introduction of “Mark’s Law” following the 2004 murder of her eight-year-old son, Mark Cummings, by convicted sex offender Stuart Leggate, who lived in the same tower block.

None of the residents in the block in Royston, Glasgow, was told when Leggate moved in that he had a criminal record.

Campaigners for a new “Mark’s Law” had called for a total disclosure of names of anyone on the sexual offenders register.

In 2005, Ms Cummings delivered a 6,000-signature petition to the Scottish Parliament calling on politicians to investigate whether such a law should be passed. She also urged the then Scottish Executive to introduce changes to the way sex offenders were supervised and monitored.

But Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, has refused to offer blanket disclosure on all known paedophiles because he claimed this would drive them underground, making them a greater risk.

However, last weekend, he announced the setting up of a pilot scheme that would give parents the right to know whether someone who had regular contact with their children was a sex offender.

But it is highly unlikely such a law would have protected the children abused by Neil Strachan and James Rennie, the leaders of a paedophile ring convicted on Thursday, as the victims’ parents regarded them as good friends.

THAT IS BECAUSE THEY DID NOT KNOW

It is scenarios such as these that ensure pressure for wider disclosure laws will continue.

Managing of sex offenders

REGISTERED sex offenders are required by law to inform police about their personal circumstances.

These include notifying the police of their name and address, date of birth, national insurance number, any change of address and periods of a stay away from home.

Police and social workers also seek to minimise the risk of paedophiles striking again by drawing up their own monitoring plans.

This includes regular visits to their homes and case conferences to discuss any concerns.

But the job of managing sex offenders is much easier if they are sentenced to more than four years in prison. That is because they can then be held subject to licence conditions that impose restrictions on their behaviour – such as staying away from children.

For sex offenders released after short prison sentences, little can be done to compel them, for example, to live far from a school.

Police already have the power to notify individuals if they consider a sex offender poses a risk. And they often use the threat of disclosure to influence a sex offender’s behaviour.

A source said: “If a convicted paedophile begins a relationship, for example, with a single mother, the police might warn him he has 48 hours to tell her about his past – or they’ll sit down with her for a cup of tea and a chat.”

However, some of the supervision was ad hoc, poorly co-ordinated and ill-informed.

In April 2007, Scottish police forces, social work departments and prisons were required to implement new arrangements to manage dangerous offenders in the community.

Mappa – multi-agency public protection arrangement – rules had already been introduced in England and Wales.

“25% of all sex offenders re-offend within 15 years”
………Sarah Tofte

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