Diplomat found guilty of child pornography charge


A BRITISH diplomat, Robert Coghlan, has been convicted of smuggling a large consignment of "depraved" child pornography into Britain.

The divorced father of two was remanded in custody until this morning when he will be sentenced by Judge Gerald Butler QC at Southwark Crown Court London.

Not only was it the biggest importation of paedophile material seized in recent years, but Coghlan (54) is the first British diplomat to be caught in such circumstances. His distinguished 30-year career in tatters, Coghlan who is currently on suspension could be dismissed.

Although he faces up to seven years in jail, he showed no reaction as the jury returned its unanimous guilty verdict after just 52 minutes.

The diplomat, who spent 4 1/2 years as first secretary in the British embassy's information department in Japan, was found guilty uf one charge under the Customs and Excise Management Act, 1979.

The charges stated that last March he was "knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of the prohibition on importation" of indecent and obscene material.

Coghlan had served in Brazil, Cuba, Switzerland and the former Yugoslavia. In February 1995, during the last of his three tours in Tokyo, he acted as senior liaison officer for the embassy for Princess Diana's visit to the Japanese capital.

The court heard Coghlan's sordid secret was only uncovered when suspicious customs men searched his luggage. It was being temporarily stored at an Essex depot after arriving from Japan, and would normally have been sent on to Madrid, where he had been due to take up another first secretary position, this time as the commercial attache.

Despite his false declaration on a customs clearance form that his belongings did not contain prohibited goods, officers felt that as a single traveller transporting videos he fitted their profile of a porn smuggler.

They unearthed 109 obscene videos, 70 of which contained what the prosecution branded as "paedophilic depravity". The judge called them "vile and sickening"

Photographs, magazines and brochures of a similar nature were also found.

The five women and seven men jurors were visibly shocked when they were shown an hour of representative excerpts from a tape entitled Angels Prefer Anals.

However, Coghlan vehemently denied he was a paedophile. He insisted he had built up the collection quite unintentionally, claiming it had not been possible to ascertain exactly what the Japanese-labelled videos contained before buying them.

Mr Jim McGregor, deputy chief investigator with Customs and Excise, last night said he believed Coghlan was part of a network of men sharing an interest in such pornography.