Paedophiles `exploiting turmoil in Romania'

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The Independent Online

British paedophiles have been posing as charity workers and sexually abusing young children in Romania and other former Eastern Bloc countries.

The paedophiles have taken advantage of the turmoil in Romania following the collapse of the Ceaucescu regime five years ago. According to ITV's World in Action, to be broadcast tonight, a number of convicted sex offenders have descended on Romanian orphanages and children's homes posing as charity workers.

The programme features two men - Bernard Lynn and Graham Sampson - who travelled to Sighisoara in Romania in 1991 to prey on young boys after volunteering to work for a Surrey-based charity. Both were subsequently jailed for sex offences committed in the UK.

In a sworn statement from prison, Sampson said he had volunteered to give him "access to young boys. We took Bernard Lynn's video player and some children's videotapes. These were the bait to attract young boys. Some of the boys stayed the night. I was never really worried that any of the boys would tell their parents."

Last year, both men were convicted of multiple offences against young boys in the UK. Sampson pleaded guilty and is serving 10 years. After two trials, Lynn got 13 years. Last week his appeal against conviction was refused.

The paedophiles are taking advantage of the widespread perception in eastern Europe that Westerners are honest, according to Claude Moraes, director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

"The local people do not realise that international criminals are travelling across Europe to use and abuse their children. It's so easy for the poor in these countries to be targeted because law and order has effectively broken down," Mr Moraes said.

The only protection charities have from being duped by paedophiles is a vetting system operated by the Voluntary Organisations Consultancy Service, which has access to police criminal records but is overstretched and is unable to accept new subscribers.