No defence for any man who will prey on children

If a person's behaviour towards children is described as lewd and libidinous, they are a paedophile and should be treated as one - even if that person happens to be a successful footballer. The 20-year-old Hearts full-back Craig Thomson has been fined £4,000 and placed on the Sex Offenders Register because of inappropriate conduct towards under-age girls on the Internet. Enough said. Presumably, Hearts bosses thought: "Oh, well, all he did was send smutty messages on Facebook. We don't need to sack him for that." It was only after the chief executive of a prominent children's charity and umpteen others called on the club to sack him that they decided to bow to public pressure and suspend Thomson. The lowest point in this sorry saga was when Thomson issued an apology on the club's website, thanking Hearts for their understanding of his situation. Understanding such behaviour is precisely where they have gone wrong. These girls are vulnerable children, the sort of people responsible adults are supposed to protect, yet they have been let down because the interests of the young man involved were considered more important. Around the world, there seems to be some dubiety over the seriousness of this sort of internet activity. It doesn't matter how sexually precocious a child is, if they are under the age of 16, all responsibility lies with the adult. Name one other situation in which children are given similar responsibility at, say, 13 or 14? It is exactly the same as suggesting they take their driving test at 14 or get married. People who send pornographic messages to children have a serious problem. The Internet attracts these sleekit people like bees to a pot of honey. These men maintain their crimes are victimless. Like hell they are. Voyeurs get their kicks from looking at crimes against children which have been captured on film. The victim is right there in front of them. The voyeur is aiding and abetting the criminals who produce the material. If he is using a credit card, he is actually funding their activities as well. Tom is not peeping, Tom is abusing. Most important of all, for a peeper, the next logical step to looking is holding conversations with kids in chat rooms and we all know the dangers of those. Nobody can say for certain that a person who chats on the Internet inappropriately will, one day, commit an offence against a child, but surely such an activity ranks as an excellent training ground and therefore makes a person a very high risk? The trouble is sex offenders are rarely convicted - because they are so difficult to catch. Meanwhile, the number of child pornography sites and the number of victims of paedophilia are skyrocketing. This is precisely because the Internet allows paedophiles to build massive networks undetected. But Thomson was detected. Shame on him for his crime and shame on Hearts for the club's disgraceful prevarication.