Not by Andrew Drummond. But quotes him. An overview of touring child abusers and some of the cases Andrew Drummond has covered
publish Date: 24 August 2008
By Dani Garavelli
IN HEATHROW Airport, the atmosphere was tense. As the plane bound from Thailand touched down, police officers took up their positions, paparazzi photographers raised their cameras and curious bystanders moved in for a closer look.
Then the moment they had all been waiting for: journalists hollered and bulbs flashed as a gaunt Gary Glitter, aka Paul Gadd, stepped into the arrivals hall, smiling for all the world as if he were still a rock star being greeted by his fans.
The days when Glitter's name evoked affection and nostalgia are long gone: years touring the world in search of underage sex have transformed him from ageing glam rocker to international pariah. The unrelenting publicity surrounding his release - as he bounced like a pinball from country to country looking for sanctuary - may have been unedifying, but it has served a purpose. It has drawn attention to a global phenomenon which produces hundreds of thousands of victims a year but very few convictions: sex tourism. More specifically, child sex tourism. In Heathrow on the day of Glitter's arrival, it is likely some of the men in the departure lounge were jetting off on holiday with the express purpose of having sex with children.
Glitter is far from alone in using foreign countries as an outlet for proclivities that would not be tolerated at home. Every year, thousands of Britons living outwardly respectable lives travel to holiday resorts such as Pattaya in Thailand or Goa in India, known for their thriving sex industries, or to Vietnam, Cambodia or former Eastern Bloc countries such as the Czech Republic and Estonia, to buy sexual gratification. A proportion will be paedophiles looking for boys and girls to abuse far away from their domestic moral strictures. It is not difficult for tourists to find poverty-stricken children willing to spend a few hours in a cheap hotel room for the price of dinner.
A report from the International Labour Office in the late 1990s found that in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, the 'sex sector' accounted for anywhere between 2% and 14% of national income. Child sex tourism accounted for up to half of that revenue.
The impact on the children involved, many of whom are trafficked from other countries to meet demand, is enormous. US studies indicate that underage prostitutes serve between two and 30 clients per week. They live in constant fear of their pimps, their clients and the police and often suffer from STDs and TB.
Some of those who start out as sex tourists emigrate permanently so they can target vulnerable children all year round. Take the academic James Fraser Darling, from Edinburgh. The son of the famous naturalist Frank Fraser Darling, he took a cottage on Rawai beach on the southern tip of Phuket after getting a job as an English teacher on the island. Soon he started befriending gypsy boys on the beach, buying them school uniforms and books, before taking them to a nearby island to photograph and abuse them. He was jailed for 33 years in 1998, although he was released after serving just two.
Other paedophiles - like Glitter - have moved abroad after being convicted of child sex offences at home. According to campaign group Ecpat (End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking), poor record-keeping and the failure to share information between countries mean it is virtually impossible to gauge the scale of the problem.
According to the Foreign Office, 114 Britons were in detention in other countries in relation to child sex offences in the first quarter of this year, but since these statistics are based on those who asked for consular assistance, they don't give the full picture. Ecpat director Christine Beddoe says one of the most alarming developments in recent years has been the number of British sex offenders getting involved with charity work or setting up orphanages abroad.
The Thai authorities believe Britons who engage in underage sex abroad can be split into two categories: those who are established paedophiles who come to Asia looking for children to target; and those who are opportunists who come looking for sex and think: 'I've never had someone so young before, I'll give that a try.'
With cheap air travel opening up previously remote parts of the globe, the internet allowing sex tours to be advertised and booked anonymously, and information-sharing between countries still inadequate, the trade is burgeoning. 'Paedophiles will go to any lengths to get access to children,' says Beddoe. 'There is not a region of the world which is unaffected by it.'
No place in the world has a worse international record for child sex tourism than Thailand. The country's reputation for sleaze has its roots in the Vietnam War. Bars, nightclubs and massage parlours sprang up to accommodate American servicemen on leave. Soon the GIs were fraternising with Thai girls, often hiring 'mistresses' to keep them company.
When the GIs left, the bars and brothels remained in Bangkok and in tourist areas such as Patpong and, perhaps most notoriously, Pattaya. An Ecpat report in 1994 observed: 'For young men, Pattaya is a kind of macho theme park, with beer, motorbikes go-go bars, kickboxing, live sex shows, pool tables in English-style pubs and guaranteed access to dolly birds to posture with and have sex.' Pattaya caters for the gay community too - with dozens of bars, with names such as Boyz, Boyz, Boyz, where picking up a man for cash is virtually guaranteed.
Then there is the even seedier side - the trade in children, particularly young boys. In an infamous area called Sunee Plaza, they work in the bars or hang around in the streets outside waiting to be picked up by predatory farangs (Thai slang for tourists of European descent).
Writing on a gay website last year, a visitor to Pattaya described checking out of a hotel because he was disgusted by 'all the grandfathers bringing back street kids into the room next door'. He went on: 'Sunee Plaza... is a cesspool of underage boys and men looking to pick them up.'
Occasionally, police will raid the clubs and round up children. Earlier this year, a sweep of Sunee Plaza found 80 underage bar workers, many of them performing on stage in their underwear. But the trade goes on, often through fixers and middlemen, with the abuse taking place in gated houses with CCTV cameras outside to warn of approaching police.
Much of the attention following Gary Glitter's return to the UK has focused on what more the UK should be doing to crack down on its travelling sex offenders (see panel], and last week Home Secretary Jacqui Smith promised new measures to keep paedophiles on a tighter leash. However, in Thailand in particular, much of the blame lies with the country's own justice system. The British Government has paid for training exercises for Thai police officers, but the suspicion remains that many of those involved in the trade are people of influence - police officers themselves or members of the establishment. If arrests are made, money can still be used to buy off justice.
'Great play will be made of raids,' says investigative journalist Andrew Drummond. 'Photographs will be taken and it will be all over the newspaper, but then the negotiations start. The quicker the offender agrees a financial settlement, the quicker his ordeal will be over.'
Even when the case reaches court, bail will often be set and paid, with the offender subsequently getting lost in the system. The few offenders who are convicted may be given ostentatiously heavy sentences, such as 40 years, but then let out after serving just one or two.
Perhaps the case that highlights the failings of the Thai justice system most clearly is that of elderly Briton Maurice Praill, known as 'the ghost'. In the 1990s the infamous paedophile was arrested several times and released after 'paying fines'. In 2001 he was convicted of the rape of two young girls, but was released on bail pending his appeal. When he lost his appeal he was released on bail again. Last year he was arrested for abusing two girls aged nine and 11 at his condominium, but within two weeks was out on bail of Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£8,000. Then, in March, he walked free from a police station in Pattaya after Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£6,500 bail was paid for the alleged sexual abuse of an eight-year-old boy.
In fact, the bail of suspected child sex offenders is paid so often, some campaigners are convinced a fighting fund has been set up to keep them out of jail.
Beddoe believes the weaknesses in other countries' justice systems do not absolve the UK from doing its utmost to alleviate their plight. In a report publish last week, Ecpat UK calls for foreign travel orders to be issued more frequently. And it wants foreign companies employing Britons to carry out the same criminal record checks we do here.
Most urgently, however, it wants to see bilateral agreements made with countries such as Thailand so British sex offenders like Glitter would automatically be returned to the UK with a chaperone after sentencing.
'Then, and only then,' Beddoe says, 'will the UK send a strong message that we will not tolerate the sexual abuse of children - anywhere.'
What can Britain do?
Britons can be prosecuted in the UK for offences committed in another country, even if what they did is not considered a crime there - although only a handful of such cases have gone through the courts.
Those who are on the sex offenders' register have to notify the authorities if they want to travel abroad for more than three days, and in some cases foreign travel orders can be issued to prevent them doing so.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre has an overseas tracker unit dedicated to trying to trace known sex offenders who have fled the country.
Last week, the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, unveiled a series of additional proposals:
&149 Force sex offenders to tell police at an earlier stage of their plans to go overseas;
&149 Close the loophole which allows sex offenders not to inform police if they are going abroad for fewer than three days;
&149 Make it possible to issue Foreign Travel Orders where children under 18 rather than 16 are at risk;
&149 Extend Foreign Travel Orders from a maximum of six months to five years;
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¢ Make it possible for those subject to blanket travel bans to have their passports confiscated.