Child sex tour agent jailed for 16 years

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The Independent Online
A British travel agent was jailed in the Philippines for 16 years yesterday for promoting sex tours with children as young as 12.

Michael Clarke, 50, of Eastbourne, West Sussex, became the first foreigner to be convicted of inducing child prostitution since a campaign against the illegal trade was launched by President Fidel Ramos last year.

The successful prosecution, secured with the help of British campaigners, prompted calls for more police resources to investigate sex offences committed by Britons against children overseas.

Danny Smith, director of the campaigning charity Jubilee, said: "Tough action by governments, including the British, is imperative to bring to justice abusers and to save more children from sexploitation."

The court in Olongapo heard how Clarke distributed a brochure in London promoting an adult tour package which included a drive to "Sin City" - Olongapo - and the "OK Corral" where "dozens of headstrong young fillies are tethered". Clients were told they could "choose [their] mount".

He also published posters promoting his Paradise Express business showing boys and girls in sexually provocative poses and promising "outrageous happenings". And he placed advertisements in Exchange and Mart.

He was caught when Martin Cottingham, of the charity Christian Aid, posed as a client and ITN secretly filmed meetings. Mr Cottingham told the court that Clarke offered him sex with a child prostitute and advised him to take a camera, video recorder and "fetish gear" with him on his holiday. Another witness told how Clarke claimed sex with a 12-year-old girl cost only as much as a hamburger.

Sentencing him yesterday, Judge Fatima Asdala said: "This act of promising sex with the young ... in the guise of promoting tourism is considered by this court to be debasing of Filipino women and children."

She ordered that after serving his sentence, Clarke should be deported and banned from the Philippines for the rest of his life. The travel agent slumped to his seat as her verdict was read to the court.

He had vehemently denied any offence and claimed he had been set up. As prison guards led him away from the courtroom, he told reporters: "I am completely innocent of the charge - a fabrication. It's diabolical - I've suffered enough."

Members of the Coalition on Child Prostitution and Tourism, which includes the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Anti- Slavery International charities, welcomed Clarke's jailing.

Mr Cottingham said: "I hope this verdict makes more British men think twice about travelling to poorer countries to exploit children sexually."

Tough new penalties, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, were introduced in Britain at the beginning of this month aimed at punishing the organisers of child sex tours.

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