Shamed envoy suspected of link to child-porn network

Jojo Moyes
Thursday 05 September 1996 23:02
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A senior British diplomat who was yesterday convicted of smuggling a large consignment of "vile and sickening" child pornography into Britain, may have been part of a network, according to customs investigators.

Robert Coghlan, former First Secretary at the British Embassy in Tokyo, will be sentenced this morning at Southwark Crown Court after being found guilty of one charge under the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979. His hoard of 109 videos, 70 of which contained paedophilic material, were seized in Essex.

Customs investigators said afterwards that they believed he was part of a network of men sharing an interest in such pornography. "I believe the videos were destined for ... whoever was in his network," said Jim McGregor, deputy chief investigator with Customs and Excise. He said he felt the seizure was significant because paedophile videos were usually peddled in ones or twos.

Coghlan, 54, who faces up to seven years in jail and dismissal from the service, showed little reaction as the verdict was returned after 52 minutes. As he was led to the cells he turned to his eldest son, Steven, in the public gallery, shrugged and managed a brief smile.

The court heard that Coghlan, who mastered six languages including Serbo- Croat and Japanese, was some thing of a "Jekyll and Hyde character" in Japan. Nigel Lithman, for the prosecution, said: "He was ... sometimes a respectable representative of the country, at other times visiting specialist sex shops, buying the most profane type of paedophile material."

Coghlan's conviction marks one of the biggest hauls of paedophilic material in recent years. The court heard it was only uncovered when Customs men searched his luggage.

It was being stored at an Essex depot after arriving from Japan, and was due to be sent on to Madrid, where he was to take up another position.

Mr Lithman said they found extensive footage depicting nothing less than "tragic and humiliating" abuse of children.

Coghlan, who has two adult sons and divorced his wife 20 years ago, denied he was a paedophile. He said he had built up the collection unintentionally, claiming it had not been possible to ascertain exactly what the Japanese- labelled videos contained - dismissed by the Crown as a "grotesque lie".

After the case a Foreign Office spokesman said: "It is too early to comment on his career...We view this as a very serious matter and will look at it carefully," he added.

An American tourist was yesterday jailed for four months after a court heard he had filmed girls, some as young as three, and sometimes nude, playing on beaches. Charles Morgan, 44, a postman from California, admitted to magistrates at Bournemouth three charges of taking indecent photographs of a child last month.

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