Child welfare campaigners criticised a judge yesterday after a paedophile with a 38-year record of offences walked free from court despite admitting his role in a sex ring that posed as a starlet's fan club.
Trevor Mellis, an 80-year-old former dentist, was given a two-year suspended jail sentence for taking and distributing indecent pictures of children as part of the Hazel Ascot Appreciation Society.
The group, named after a Forties child star who was Britain's answer to Shirley Temple, was a front for paedophiles who ºare believed by detectives to have abused hundreds of children.
Three other members were jailed by Judge Paget at the Old Bailey for assaulting girls, often in front of cameras to produce pornography.
Keith Romig, 55, of Leyton, east London, had 110 videos, eight 16mm films, 10,000 photographs, 32,000 negatives, 18 audio tapes and 500 magazines. Romig and Leslie Baldwin, 50, of North Kensington, west London, were jailed for three years for making and distributing indecent photographs and indecent assault.
Julian Levene, 54, of Northolt, west London, described as the "linchpin" of the ring, was sentenced to six years for sex with a minor and six indecent assaults and distributing indecent material.
Mellis, who has never been jailed despite convictions for sex abuse dating from 1965, avoided prison again after the court heard he was in poor physical and mental health.
Maureen Carson, an investigator from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, who worked with police to identify victims from thousands of obscene photographs, said the sentence was too lenient. "We are very disappointed, particularly for the victims," she said. "Light sentences can put other victims off coming forward. Mellis may be sick and elderly, but he has spent his life abusing children. We are worried about the message it gives to other abusers in the community."
Mellis, of Otley, West Yorkshire, grinned as he was told he would only have to sign the sex offenders register for 10 years. His latest offences were 20 years ago.
He had been convicted in 1964 of posting obscene material. A year later he indecently assaulted an 11-year-old girl and was struck off the dental register. He was put on probation in 1974 for indecently assaulting two girls, aged eight and 10.
Judge Paget told Mellis: "It is disturbing that you still seem to minimise the seriousness of what you have done. In my view, your age and infirmity and the staleness of the offences make this an exceptional case."
The offences took place before new legislation came into force, which now allows judges impose harsher sentences on paedophiles.
The group had also drawn up a guide on how to pick up children for what they called "The Hobby", which was found in Levene's car. Sally Howes, for the prosecution, told the court: "It contained advice on the do's and do nots on how to approach a child with the view to gaining their trust and ultimately abusing them."
It tells paedophiles to dress smartly and to be clean-shaven. It also says the best places to pick up children are in northern England or in naval ports.Reuse content