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Scottish court convicts 8 men over child sex abuse

  • Story Highlights
  • Scottish court convicts eight men of child sexual abuse
  • Police say it is the largest pedophile ring ever dismantled in Scotland
  • Two of the men, Neil Strachan and James Rennie, face life in prison
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(CNN) -- A Scottish court has convicted eight men of child sexual abuse in what police say is the largest pedophile ring ever dismantled in Scotland.

The eight men were all convicted Thursday of offenses related to indecent photographs of children. Three were also convicted of the sexual abuse of young children, and five were convicted of conspiring to take part in the sexual abuse of a child, identified only as Child F.

"Tens of thousands of photographic and video images of children being sexually abused were recovered," said Morag McLaughlin, the prosecutor for the Lothian and Borders region. "All of those involved in the investigation and prosecution of the case have been profoundly affected by it."

Two of the men, Neil Strachan and James Rennie, face a maximum of life in prison when they are sentenced July 29, said a spokesman for the High Court in Edinburgh, where the men were convicted. The others, who will be sentenced June 11, face a variety of lesser sentences.

The police investigation revealed a network of people who shared a common interest in child sexual abuse, said Detective Superintendent Allan Jones, of Lothian and Borders Police. Information from the probe yielded information on 70 others around Britain and led to "numerous arrests," he said.

"They made initial contact via the Internet and used it to share vile imagery and discuss the abuse of children," Jones said. Video Watch a report on the convicted men »

Strachan was the only one of the eight who was previously known to police, he said.

"All of them led classic double lives. Some of them were respected members of their professions and communities," Jones said.

The family of Child F released a statement after the conviction that detailed how Rennie betrayed the family's trust to abuse their son.

Rennie was "the closest of family friends" for more than 15 years and even offered support and friendship during difficult times, they said.

"To subsequently learn that he abused our son, and invited others to do the same, has been devastating," the family said. "As a family we have had to learn to live and cope with the effects these horrific events have had."

The mother of another child involved in the case, identified only as Child JL, described her "anguish" about what Strachan had done to her son.

"I will never be able to forgive him for the sick acts that he committed against my son," said the mother, whose name was not released. "I feel that no matter what punishment given to Mr. Strachan, it will never be able to compensate for the hurt, devastation and great deal of stress brought to me and my family. Mr. Strachan used and abused our trust in order to satisfy his and others' sick needs."

Police and prosecutors gathered important evidence from overseas and used new scientific expertise in order to prosecute the case, the court said.

Lothian and Borders Police said it received "invaluable" expertise from the FBI in the United States and other British and Scottish agencies -- including the Serious Organized Crime Agency and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center.

Microsoft helped police trace e-mail addresses and identities, Jones said. Police also had help from two U.S. academics, Professors Hany Farid of Dartmouth University and Miroslav Goljan of the State University of New York at Binghamton, who are experts in steganalysis, a forensic technique that links an image to the camera on which it has been taken, Jones said.

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Jones praised the forensic scientists who had to examine the imagery in the case.

"They do not have the option to look away and have to live with the memory of what they have seen," he said. "It is a testament to their expertise that they did this day in, day out. They did it for the good of children and provided us with a first-class service."

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