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BBC Scotland's Alan Mackay
"He lured the girl to a bedroom on the pretence of showning her a computer"
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Monday, 14 August, 2000, 18:08 GMT 19:08 UK
Paedophile escapes jail
Thomas Maxwell
Maxwell's name was added the sex offenders' list
A sheriff's decision not to jail a 60-year-old paedophile has provoked a public outcry on the island of Harris where the man is now living.

Thomas Maxwell, a Jehovah's Witness for more than 30 years, was sentenced to three years probation and 240 hours community service for sex offences against a 12-year-old.

His name will also be added to the sex offenders' register.

At Alloa Sheriff Court, Sheriff William Reid said his decision not to impose a prison sentence had been influenced by Maxwell's voluntary exile to a remote part of the Western Isles.

But the residents of Leverburgh in Harris where Maxwell is now living are outraged.

'Thoroughly nasty'

Community council secretary John Mitchell said people would be horrified and that children on the island needed protection from Maxwell.

Jehovah Witnesses
Maxwell could be expelled from the Jehovah Witnesses
But Sheriff Reid, who described the offences against the girl as "thoroughly nasty", said: "If I were to send you to prison the maximum period you could spend there would be three months, and then you would be released back into the community without any supervision whatsoever.

"I doubt whether such a short period of imprisonment would benefit you or society as a whole.

"It is better for the community that you be kept under prolonged supervision.

"I also take into account that you have voluntarily exiled yourself to some remote part of the Western Isles."


Maxwell was living in Woodlea Park, Sauchie, near Alloa, at the time of the offences.

He was found guilty at Alloa Sheriff Court in June on two counts of behaving with shameless indecency.

His victim, now 17, broke down in loud sobs as the sentence was read out. She shouted "animal" as Maxwell was led quickly from the dock.

As he left the building, members of the Alloa congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses shouted "pervert".

Robert Millan, a church elder, said Maxwell would be summoned before the church's judicial committee and could be dismissed from the movement.

The girl's father said: "This man betrayed our trust and ruined our family life.

'Huge personal loss'

"He should be disfellowshiped and no longer regarded as a brother in the Christian congregation until such time as he shows true repentance, and I don't think he's very likely to do that."

Defence lawyer, April Campbell, said Maxwell had suffered "huge personal loss" as a result of the case.

She said: "His life has been irrevocably shattered. His marriage has broken down, he has been rejected by his family, and he has been rejected by the congregation of the church of which he was a member for 30 or so years.

"He has suffered severe psychological difficulties and depression and it is inconceivable that he should find himself in a position to re-offend."

Miss Campbell added: "He feels a great and terrible shame and recognises the possibility of psychological harm to his victim."

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14 Aug 00 | UK Politics
'Paedophile blitz: no rush'
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