The former head of a lesbian and gay organisation and an elder in the Church of Scotland are among eight alleged paedophiles who could face lengthy prison sentences at the conclusion of one of the most significant trials in recent Scottish legal history.
The defendants in Edinburgh's High Court are accused of range of horrifying offences including the possession and distribution of images of child sex abuse, to the even more serious charge - faced by six of the men - of conspiracy to participate in the commission of sexual offences, including lewd, indecent and libidinous practices and behaviour, and indecent assault against children. It is believed to be the first time that a conspiracy charge has been laid in a case of alleged sexual abuse against children.
The men accused of conspiracy include Neil Strachan, a specialist paint mixer who worked for Crown Paints, and James Rennie, a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and the former chief executive of LGBT Youth Scotland - an organisation that campaigns for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered young people. Both men are from Edinburgh.
During eight weeks of evidence the court has heard allegations that Mr Strachan had sex with an 18-month-old baby and sent a photo of the abuse to another man by e-mail. He is also alleged to have abused the child's elder brother.
Mr Rennie, 38, also faces an allegation of conspiring to allow other paedophiles access to the baby.
Ross Webber, 27, a bank worker from North Berwick, Craig Boath, 24, an insurance adjuster from Dundee, and John Milligan, 40, a civil servant, are also indicted for conspiracy, along with Neil Campbell, 46, a Church of Scotland elder at Jordanhill Parish Church. All six men, including Mr Strachan and Mr Rennie, are charged with further offences.
Mr Strachan's former boyfriend, Colin Slaven, 23, an IT worker, and John Murphy, 44, who works as a receptionist in a sauna, are indicted for offences including the possession of indecent photographs. Each faces the charge that he either took indecent photographs of children or permitted the photographs to be taken.
Over six hours in Edinburgh's High Court, Judge Lord Bannatyne gave the seven men and seven women of the jury legal direction on a total of 54 charges. He told them that “this is not a court of morals” and urged them to “look dispassionately at the evidence”. The jury are expected to retire to consider their verdict this morning.
All of the offences on the indictment are alleged to have been committed in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and East Lothian between February 2004 and November 2007. The defendants deny the charges.