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Tuesday, 26 November, 2002, 18:01 GMT
Paedophile campaigner walks free
Heathrow Airport
A search of baggage at Heathrow revealed the images
A pro-paedophilia campaigner should not have been jailed for smuggling indecent pictures of naked children into the UK, a court has ruled.

Allowing Thomas O'Carroll to go free, London's Court of Appeal said the judge who sentenced him was influenced excessively by the 57-year-old's campaign to legalise sex between adults and children.

As well as setting aside the prison sentence, O'Carroll will now no longer be required to register his name under the Sex Offender Act.

He was convicted at Southwark Crown Court in August of being knowingly concerned in the importation of indecent material by importing long-lens photographs of children and sentenced to nine months in prison.

Appeal judge Mr Justice Holman said the pictures taken by O'Carroll had the quality of indecency in the context in which they taken, but were of the kind that parents might take of their children entirely innocently.

They were found hidden in O'Carroll's baggage as he travelled through London's Heathrow Airport in October 2001.

Naked children

His original trial heard how the images were found by Customs and Excise officers during a search of nine crates which O'Carroll had sent from Qatar where he had been working.

Nearly 100 photographs were examined, with 54 featuring naked or scantily-clad children.

But Mr Justice Holman, sitting with Lord Justice Buxton, stressed the case was very different from the "modern scourge" of child pornography on the internet.

He said there was no evidence O'Carroll imported the photographs for any purpose other than his own personal sexual gratification and he said they were at a "relatively low level" of indecency.

"It appears he has been interested for many years in the subject of paedophilia, although there is no evidence of his having engaged in illegal activities with any child," said the judge.

Mr Justice Holman said the original sentence was "manifestly excessive" and the trial judge had "lost sight of the actual offences for which he was sentencing him".

Pre-pubescent children

O'Carroll, of Leam Street, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, defended his images of children as "artistic street photography".

But he also admitted he found them erotic and his sexual preference was for pre-pubescent children.

O'Carroll has only one previous conviction - in 1981 for conspiracy to corrupt public morals, for which he was sentenced to two years in prison.

That offence stemmed from the now defunct Paedophile Information Exchange, which he founded.

He had been arrested after publishing the organisation's worldwide contact list in a bid to encourage sexual contact with children.


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09 Aug 02 | England
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