October 1997

Scientist jailed for Web child abuse images

A SCIENTIST at a leading Glasgow research institute has been jailed for three months after being found guilty of accessing child abuse images on the Internet.

George Reid, 33, of Rosehill Road, Torrance, a research scientist at the Cancer Research Campaign’s Beatson Institute, resigned after police were called in and found 1,871 child abuse pictures stored on his computer. A scientific officer found the images after scanning the system to see why it was overloaded.

Dr Reid’s solicitor claimed he had stored the pictures accidentally, but the prosecution did not agree. The court heard that Dr Reid had paid about £40 to a Japanese company for access to the pornography.

Sheriff George Crozier dismissed a plea for a non-custodial sentence, saying: “This evil trade has to be stamped out. There has to be a deterrent.”

But John Wyke, the Beatson’s director, said he hoped Dr Reid would be given a chance to redeem himself and that rehabilitation would not be lost in the natural desire for punishment.

“He is a very intelligent and very promising scientist, and his career has now been severely jeopardised by his actions. I think he didn’t appreciate the enormity of what he was doing.”

Professor Wyke said the depth of feeling among staff about the offence made it “inappropriate” for Dr Reid to return to the Beatson after serving his sentence.

“But if I came across somebody of his talents, I would be willing to give them a chance to redeem themselves once they had paid the penalty.”

Professor Wyke said he believed the offence was “the tip of an iceberg”, with many other people accessing similar sites.

“I suspect a lot of providers of network facilities are being rather ostrich-like about this and would rather not know what goes on. If they are not monitoring this, they are at risk of being negligent in their legal requirements,” he said.

“We now make sure all our staff are aware that their use of the Internet is likely to be randomly monitored, so that inappropriate use may come to light, and nobody can claim that they did not know some inappropriate usage was a potential offence.”