Editor-At-Large: Locking up Langham won't stop men looking at child porn

He claimed he saw himself in the images he had downloaded, reliving abuse he said he remembered from his childhood
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Chris Langham will be spending this weekend in prison, starting a 10-month sentence for downloading pornographic videos of young children so disgusting that, when they were shown to the jury during his trial, one woman burst into tears and the proceedings were temporarily halted. In the same courtroom the day before, Langham was sentenced on Friday, three people had also received custodial sentences for sex crimes involving children. Warehouseman Stephen Horton, who supplied the children, will serve a minimum of five years before being considered for parole.

The two instigators who tortured and abused the children over a six-hour period in June 2005 were, just like Chris Langham, extraordinarily middle class. Archibald Wood achieved a law degree from Oxford, and had worked for the Ministry of Defence. At the time of his arrest, he was chairman of his local community college and a primary school governor. His lover, the businesswoman Monica McCanch, had taken early retirement from the drugs firm Pfizer and claimed to be a devout Christian. Both Wood and McCanch received six-year sentences.

During Langham's trial, he brought his three eldest sons to court and into the witness box to testify to his parenting abilities. He was confident and composed, and a set of charges involving sex with an under-age girl were subsequently dropped. Langham had always maintained that he watched the 15 pornographic videos for "research purposes", claiming he was writing a paedophile character called Pedro (with the catchphrase "I'm only a minor offender") into his hit television comedy series about a psychiatrist and his clients, Help.

Unfortunately, co-writer Paul Whitehouse knew nothing of any need for such first-hand research, so it was inevitable that Langham would be found guilty, especially as he had never denied downloading the imagery.

Chris Langham was well-respected by his peers, voted best comedy actor (for The Thick of It) at the British Comedy Awards in 2005, winning a Bafta for best comedy performance in 2006. Now, as someone who will be on the register of sex offenders for the next 10 years, things will be very different. When he leaves prison he will find it very difficult to get any work, especially from his old employer, the BBC.

But although the crimes committed by Horton, Wood and McCanch undeniably warrant long custodial sentences, isn't the case of Chris Langham just a little bit more complicated?

I am not pleading special treatment for someone who has entertained a large section of the British public. The two cases prove that paedophilia isn't just something indulged in by working-class blokes but by outwardly respectable middle-class home-owners.

Where Langham is a bit different is in his utter naivety; he is a recovering alcoholic, who, he told the court, was also abused as a child. Writing Help, he brought a wealth of experience and sympathy to the wide range of fictional characters who came face-to-face with his on-screen shrink. That doesn't excuse his behaviour, but I can't really see what locking him up will achieve. He needs counselling, not custody.

One expert has said that in his opinion Langham is not a paedophile, but someone who looks at abusive images of children, and sees himself as the victim in the pictures, reliving his own childhood experiences.

Then there is the anomaly of the rock star Pete Townshend, caught using his credit card to look at child pornography sites. He too, claimed it was "for research", for books about child pornography and his autobiography. Townshend also said, like Langham, that he thought he had been abused as a child. In 2003, the police cautioned Townshend, but he was not charged. He was placed on the sex offenders register for three years. Neither book has appeared.

We need to have some consistency in sentencing people for crimes against children. Yes, real kids are involved, and one of the young girls in the videos watched by Langham is said to have been traced and rescued by the police and taken from her family. But, in the end, does locking up Chris Langham stop other paedophiles logging on to watch videos involving children? Sadly, I don't think it will.

The fashion world betrays real women

London Fashion Week creaked into action last week, and I logged on to the website and found that the much-heralded British Fashion Council's report on size zero models didn't rate a mention in "news" a day after it was leaked. But what can you expect from a bunch who call a six-day event a "week" and expect you to be impressed by a news item about Matthew Williamson celebrating 10 years in the business, posted on 5 August? Its "Model Health Inquiry", which could have banned girls under 16 from their catwalk shows, didn't follow Spain and Italy in rejecting models with a body mass index of under 18. The report claims the BMI "isn't an accurate method of determining health". I'm sure the World Health Organisation, who state that a BMI of 18.5 is the minimum for good health, will be very impressed. From September 2008, models will have to produce a medical certificate proving they do not have an eating disorder. It's pitifully inadequate. Model size isn't just a health issue, it's about proving to vulnerable girls that skinny isn't attractive. I see no signs at all of the fashion industry being seriously interested in that.

Prince is giving his audiences rhythm fatigue

Prince's concerts at the O2 arena have received excellent reviews, but they are endurance tests for the faithful. A friend went the other night, and stayed on for the after-gig concert, given by the Purple One in a smaller space within the same building. He was thrilled to be invited, but after realising it was 3.45am and he'd been listening to Prince for well over six hours, he slipped away with a pounding headache, suffering from serious rhythm fatigue.

Meanwhile, Prince has decided to launch legal action over all clips from the shows which have been recorded on mobile phones and posted by loyal fans on the internet on sites such as YouTube. I find it curious that a man who decides to give away hundreds of thousands of copies of his latest album with The Mail on Sunday should be so picky about the copyright of his work, and it shows an extraordinary level of naivety because he is also trying to prevent the sale of merchandise and ephemera from the shows on eBay.

Given that there are now more mobile phones in Britain than the total population, how could Prince think that imposing a ban on photography and filming at his live events would be honoured by ticket-holders when they can tune in the television any night of the week and view hours and hours of broadcasting derived from amateur footage, as well as seeing all those weekly gossip magazines filled with pap pictures taken by members of the public? By giving away his album he dealt another blow to high street music shops, already under threat from the internet and supermarkets. He has a weird set of priorities.

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