Paedophile first to be jailed under sex tourism law

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The Independent Online

A paedophile sex tourist who attacked girls as young as seven in Cambodia was jailed for eight years by a British court yesterday.

Mark Towner, 52, who pleaded guilty to 14 counts of abuse, including sex with a girl under the age of 13, became the first person to be prosecuted under legislation that allows charges to be brought in this country for sex offences abroad.

Towner, who has two children, was arrested after his wife told police of pictures she had found on his computer.

Maidstone Crown Court was told that Towner, a safety officer from Cranbrook, Kent, took pictures of himself committing lewd acts with children in Cambodia and sent them to his e-mail address in Britain.

Judge Warwick McKinnon said Towner was a danger to children and passed a long sentence so that he could receive rehabilitation.

The judge said: "These acts of sexual abuse are grave indeed ­ they are quite horrendous and horrific offences. Children as young as seven and no older than 10 are involved in degradation and they were performed for your own perverted gratification. You are a danger to young children and the court must send out a message of determination against people who perform acts on one so young."

Towner's wife ran crying from the court when she heard the horrific nature of the crimes he had committed against the children.

She had contacted police after finding two images downloaded on to his computer from the internet.

Speaking after the case, Detective Constable Dave Canning said Towner had more than 600 images of children on his computer. "In my experience, in almost 20 years of police service, these are probably the most appalling photographs that I have seen and they involve very young children," he said.

"This case highlights particularly good use of new legislation by allowing the full weight of the law in this country to be brought to bear on Mr Towner."

The court was told Towner had an obsession with pornography and that in 1987 he had been convicted of importing indecent images of children into Britain.

Since Towner was arrested last year his wife has left him and he has lost his job. John O'Higgins, for the defence, said Cambodia's "huge sex industry and the availability of girls gave him the temptation where he would never have contemplated before".

Mr O'Higgins said Towner felt overwhelming self-disgust and was "utterly destroyed and completely overwhelmed by what has occurred to him".Towner, wearing a pinstriped suit and glasses, showed no emotion as the sentence was passed.

Towner's wife, who did not want to be named, said she was "utterly stunned" by what her husband had done.