January 2010

Child abuse images Scout leader sent to jail

A ‘PREDATORY’ former Plymouth Scoutmaster has been jailed after admitting possessing and distributing child pornography – and refusing to tell police his secret paedophile computer passwords.

John McMurdo , 36, pleaded guilty to all 14 counts put to him at a previous hearing last month at Plymouth Crown Court. The charges were:

Eleven counts of making indecent images of children, at levels one to four. Level one is the least serious category of pornographic image and level five the most serious.

One count of possessing 30 indecent photographs of children for distribution, at levels one, two, three and four, between December 30, 2007, and August 8 last year.

One count of distributing indecent photographs of children to persons unknown between the same dates.

Failing to comply with a disclosure notice regarding an encryption device on September 2 last year.

Prosecutor Piers Norsworthy told the court yesterday that McMurdo had provided police with two passwords they hoped would enable them to access discs found at his home, but neither had worked.

Police had obtained three other passwords, two of which seemed to be a random series of letters and numbers.

The third was suspected of being a coded sentence and was decrypted into a ‘memorable message’ apparently referring to the rape of a boy.

Mr Norsworthy said police had raided McMurdo’s flat in Lipson Road on August 7 last year, seizing several CDs. One was examined that day and found to contain 1,890 images of boys being abused.

McMurdo was arrested next day at a Scout camp in south-east Cornwall.

Asked to provide passwords to encrypted discs, he refused, and would not say why.

McMurdo told police he had been a Scout leader for a year, and had joined to widen his social circle. He then confessed that he fantasised about boys aged eight to 10 wearing football kit, visited internet chatrooms and had for years been sharing images with other paedophiles.

Paul Bitmead, for McMurdo, said: “These were vile offences.

“My client accepts that he has a problem and what he did was wrong and immoral.”

He said McMurdo would undertake courses in prison and do anything to help stop him repeating the offences.

Judge Paul Darlow told McMurdo: “These offences demonstrate your predatory and unnatural homosexual interest in young boys, which you were prepared to further by becoming a Scout leader and possessing and exchanging indecent images of children.

“Maybe you do or don’t understand the misery of children subjected to abuse to satisfy your predatory interest.” He sentenced McMurdo to a total of 40 months in jail, ordered him to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register for 10 years and imposed a Sexual Offences Prevention Order.

A Scout Association spokesman, Simon Carter, said after the case: “We are pleased John McMurdo pleaded guilty and has got a heavy sentence.”