An online Dundee predator who drove a Texan schoolgirl victim to the brink of suicide has been jailed for less than two years because the UK Government caused longs delays to the case.
Christopher Thomson was jailed for 23 months on Thursday as Sheriff Alastair Carmichael said the government “unlawfully” caused the lengthy hold-up.
Sheriff Carmichael said he would have jailed Thomson for longer but had to cut the jail term because of the six-year period it had taken to reach a conclusion.
He said: “The narrative describes the reasons for the delay in this case and some of that was due to two years spent judicially reviewing the unlawful actions of the UK Government.
“The sentence is reduced substantially because of the delay in bringing you to justice and a large part of that was due to the actions of the British Government.”
Sheriff Carmichael did not elaborate on the details of the “unlawful” actions of the UK Government.
The Ministry of Justice said the issue is a matter for the courts in Scotland.
However the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service said the UK Government, rather than it, should address the issue.
US Government lost legal battle to extradite Thomson
Thomson could have faced life behind bars in a Texan prison but the US Government lost a legal battle to have him extradited and tried in America.
Thomson won a court bid to show it would breach his human rights to extradite him.
The 27-year-old gamer, who was said to “live in a virtual world,” was caught controlling the life of a 14-year-old girl as a result of a probe by the FBI.
Delivery driver Thomson forced his terrified victim to send him a sexually explicit video before urging her to self-harm and commit suicide.
He controlled her life minute-by-minute, hacked into her online accounts to monitor her activity on the other side of the world and kept the sick video in a file entitled: ‘Man, I’m so smart.’
Thomson, from Dundee, admitted forcing his 14-year-old victim to send him a sexually explicit video of herself, which he watched and recorded, in September 2014.
He also admitted secretly accessing the child’s Skype account, threatening to share her video, and instructing her to self-harm and commit suicide.
He admitted banning her from listening to certain kinds of music, telling her to rip up One Direction concert tickets, and forbidding her from talking to school friends between June 1 and November 11 2014.
‘Online transatlantic control’
“This was online transatlantic control by somebody aged 20 at the time of someone who was a 13 or 14 year old child,” Sheriff Carmichael said.
“You cajoled and threatened her into various acts on the internet. You used these to extort her to do more and controlled the way you permitted her to do things.”
Fiscal depute Charmaine Gilmartin told the court Thomson was unemployed and met the 14-year-old Texan girl playing war games on the X-Box.
She said: “At the time he was 20. In November 2014 Police Scotland got information that indecent images of children could be found at his home.
“A search was carried out. The accused was nervous, sweating and shaking.”
Mrs Gilmartin said Thomson had installed a Skype password hacking app and had searched online for how to secretly get into other people’s accounts.
In the ‘Man, I’m so smart’ file was a video of the girl being forced to carry out a sex act while Thomson could be heard giving her direction.
Mrs Gilmartin added: “The accused sent a large number of abusive, threatening and controlling messages.
“He demanded she stop listening to certain music, go home immediately, when to shower, when to sleep, eat and what she could and could not wear.
“Over four days he forced her to provide updates on what she was doing every few minutes. She had tickets for a One Direction concert and he insisted she choose between him and the concert.
“He told her she was only allowed to talk to one friend at school and that he would listen to the audio from her phone to check.”
The girl pleaded with Thomson to stop but he threatened to expose what she had done to her family and others and continued to bombard her with messages.
Her sister became involved and told Thomson that she had informed the FBI and the Scottish authorities about what he was doing. The Department of Homeland Security launched an investigation.
Thomson denied he was in Scotland and contacted his victim’s sister to tell her he would make the girl commit suicide.
When he was interviewed by police, he initially denied being in touch with the girl, but eventually confessed to grooming her.
‘He accepted he intended to place her in a state of distress’
Mrs Gilmartin said: “He agreed it was his voice, agreed she was crying and distressed and admitted using screen capturing software to record her video call.
“He understood that she would have been scared because she believed he would send the video on. He accepted he intended to place her in a state of distress.”
“This behaviour has had a tremendously adverse effect on the young female from the USA – to the extent she has threatened to take her own life.”
The prosecutor said the US authorities got Grand Jury permission to put Thomson on trial and a lengthy legal process began to try and extradite him from Scotland.
Thomson battled the move through the Scottish courts for several years until it was ruled to be a breach of his human rights in May last year.
‘Absolutely appalling’ case, says Dundee charity boss
Dr Laurie Matthew OBE, founder of Dundee charity Eighteen And Under, which supports young victims of abuse, said the case is “absolutely appalling”.
She said: “It’s an absolute disgrace that the government caused this problem and it would have been so much more like justice if he had been sent to the USA to serve a much more appropriate sentence.
“Little wonder the sheriff was so dismayed as any decent person would be.
“This man has been allowed to get off really lightly after abusing and causing a child immense pain and no doubt long term psychological damage.
“To prevent this in future authorities need to work together in the interest of protecting children from such predators.
“Surely lessons can be learned from this heartbreaking case that agreement be drawn up between countries and authorities?
“Child protection should be of global concern and abusers should be prevented from escaping justice. There should be no legal loopholes or right based rocks that they can hide under.
“Perhaps Scotland should look to take sentencing as seriously as the USA and Texas in particular where at least a sentence worthy of the crime could have been given.”
Police welcome sentencing of ‘evil’ predator who acted with ‘premeditation’
A senior Tayside police officer has welcomed the sentence handed down to Thomson, whose sick crimes were brought to light following a major investigation between Scottish and American authorities.
Police Scotland worked with the US Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the US Embassy to expose the Dundonian’s “deviant behaviour”.
Detective Sergeant Mark Wilson, of Tayside Police Division’s Criminal Investigation Department, said Thomson’s actions towards his young victim have had a “significant” impact on her life.
“Thomson is a callous individual who actively pursued and preyed upon a 14-year-old girl from Texas, USA, to cultivate an online relationship.
“Having obtained the trust of his victim, he would seek and obtain indecent images of her before urging her to harm herself and commit suicide.
“He threatened the victim by telling them he would let her friends and family know what she had done. He uploaded an image to a YouTube account and sent the link to the victim’s sister.
“Her family reported him to United States Department of Homeland Security and joint investigation was undertaken with Police Scotland.”
Detective Sergeant Wilson added: “His evil behaviour was premeditated and implemented with precision and planning after hacking into her online account.
“Thomson showed absolutely no empathy towards victim, after bombarding her with abusive and threatening messages over the course of several months.
“The impact of Thomson’s behaviour on this young girl is significant and cannot be underestimated.
“I commend her bravery throughout this ordeal and I hope that now he has been jailed it brings some reassurance that he cannot cause further harm due to his deviant behaviour.
“We worked alongside a range of partner agencies including the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, along with Homeland Security, US Department of Justice and the US Embassy to bring Thomson justice.”