September 2011

Former British government adviser jailed for 12 years for sexually abusing young girls in Cambodia

A former senior adviser to the British government has been sentenced to 12 years in a Cambodian jail for sexually abusing three young girls.

Michael Leach, from Kenley, Surrey, who worked closely with ministers at the Department of Trade and Industry, was arrested last September near Phnom Penh, the country’s capital.

The 51-year-old pervert was found living in a guesthouse where he had been abusing three girls aged 10, 12 and 15 years old.

Leach once attended a Commonwealth Summit with Labour Minister for Energy Stephen Timms, and also represented Britain at trade fares across the globe.

He was a senior advisor in the DTI specialising in international communications until 2005.

That year he was arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing children at a Phnom Penh orphanage. 

After 10 hours in custody he was released without charge, the People reported at the time of his September arrest.

Returning to the UK in 2006, Leach joined OFCOM, the communications watchdog, which he represented at a major European conference.

Today Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Oeung Seang also ordered Leach to pay 12million riel (£1,840) to one of the victims.

Compensation had already been paid to the other two girls.

Cambodia has targeted sex offenders in recent years but it remains a magnet for paedophiles because of poverty and poor law enforcement.

An aid agency that works with victims of child sex abuse warned that sex tourism remains rife in many poorer parts of the world.

Erica Hall, child rights specialist with World Vision UK, said that Leach’s conviction was just the tip of an iceberg. 

World Vision UK believes that there are many British sex offenders who continue to prey on children abroad with relative impunity,’ she said.

‘More research needs to be done, but there is evidence to suggest that as South East Asia becomes an increasingly difficult place in which to operate, not least because of convictions of offenders such as Leach, offenders are targeting other countries, closer to home.’

Registered sex offenders are still allowed to travel overseas without telling the UK authorities as long as they return within three days.