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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 20:40 GMT
Paedophile ringleader goes free
Keith Romig's converted loft
One of the ring hid material in a secret cupboard
An Old Bailey judge has been criticised by a children's charity for allowing a paedophile with a 40-year record to walk free from court.

Trevor Mellis, an 80-year-old retired dentist from Yorkshire, was given a two-year suspended jail sentence for taking and distributing indecent pictures of children.

Despite having convictions involving children dating back to 1964, Mellis has never served a jail sentence.

He was part of a paedophile ring which detectives believe abused hundreds of children over many years.

Trevor Mellis
Trevor Mellis has a long history of convictions

Three other members of the ring, which disguised itself as a fan club for a wartime child star, were sentenced to three to six years in jail by Judge David Paget.

Outside court, members of the NSPCC investigation team said the sentences were too light.

The team worked with Scotland Yard detectives to sort out thousands of obscene photographs of children.

Team manager Maureen Carson said: "We are very disappointed, particularly for the victims.

"They are still trying to recover from the abuse they suffered as children.

"We are concerned that light sentences will put other victims off coming forward.

'Destroyed lives'

"And we are worried about the message it gives to other abusers in the community.

"Mellis may be a sick and elderly man but he has spent his entire life abusing children."

Julian Levene
Levene wrote out tips on how to abuse children

Fellow investigator Beverley Clarke said: "This is a really negative sentence. This man has destroyed his victims's lives."

Mellis and another man, Julian Levene, used the Hazell Ascott Appreciation Society as a front to pass child pornography between members.

They called their perversions "The Hobby" and Levene had drawn up a flow chart called the "Hobby Do's and Don'ts", detailing tricks on how to trap and abuse children.

Mellis, of Otley, West Yorkshire, was given a two-year sentence, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty to four sample charges.

'Outraged and appalled'

Judge Paget said it was because the offences involving him were 20 years old and he was in "very poor health" mentally and physically.

Keith Romig
Romig had built hiding holes for his pornography
Levene, 54, of Northolt, west London, was jailed for six years after admitting having sex with a girl under the age of 13, six indecent assaults, and taking and distributing indecent material.

Keith Romig, 55, of Leyton, east London, and Leslie Baldwin, 50, of North Kensington, west London, were each jailed for three years for making and distributing indecent photographs and other offences.

A number of other offences will lie on file.

Judge Paget told the four men: "No right-thinking person can fail to be both outraged and appalled by the sexual abuse of young children."

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