Classical music writer jailed for child pornography

Classical music writer jailed for child pornography


norman lebrecht

December 01, 2011

I know the individual concerned and cannot bring myself to comment on the shocking case. The man has been jailed for 32 months.

Read the court report here and here.


  • Suzanne says:

    I’m hoping that you couldn’t “bring (yourself) to comment” because the story sickened you and not because you have any feelings of sympathy for this sick individual. Given what was written I have to believe that he is a threat to society and we should all hope that his “32” months stretches into a lifetime of hell behind bars.

  • Susan says:

    Yes, heaven forbid that Norman would endorse this man’s behaviour in any way, Suzanne, just because he wrote about classical music and was known to the critic. Much better that he join the majority baying for his blood and ‘a lifetime in hell’, as you put it so delicately.

    Or… maybe Norman could hesitate to condemn Carroll because he suspects the heart is a bit too complex to make snap judgements, especially about human sexuality. I can’t imagine how anyone gets sexually excited by children, but I doubt Carroll is/was a threat to society – society would have collapsed long ago if it was vulnerable to every nasty fantasy men or women indulge to excite themselves.

    Carroll boasted about the ease of kidnapping kids in Eastern Europe for sexual use but I suspect this is urban legend, or the pathetic delusion of the tragics he shared files with on the internet. Aren’t we being a touch racist if we readily believe Eastern European parents are so careless of their children?

    Is Carroll prosecuted for child rape or molestation? Has he directly harmed any children at all? If so by all means put him in the darkest dungeon for as long as possible. But our prisons will be very full if we punish everyone who has ever had a filthy thought. Have you, Suzanne?

    • Jon says:

      The man in question may not have directly harmed children himself, but those reports state he had in his possession over 6,000 images of child abuse. As a consumer of child pornography he is indirectly responsible for the harm done to the children involved in the production of those 6,000+ images.

      • Jonathan says:

        While Mr. C. may well be “indirectly responsible”, you must still take into consideration that there is a difference between the harm contributed by an individual and the harm caused by the market as a whole. The absence of those images would not necessarily have made any material difference to any individual, and Mr. C. was almost certainly acting in that knowledge. If you condemn Mr. C. based on the effects of the market as a whole, you are condemning him based on the actions of millions of unrelated individuals, not on what he individually caused. That is not to say that any contribution at all is justified, but this does better put his choices into perspective. (You might also notice that I said “may be” indirectly responsible instead of “is”. This is something to which I have given considerable thought; it gets more involved, and the conclusions are rather sticky.)

        Furthermore, from experience I would go so far as to say that whatever degree of scepticism you believe is suitable for the media reports, multiply it by at least 10. While it is no surprise that the media sensationalises, cases involving paedophiles and child pornography can be a whole different ballpark. For example, I would not be surprised if very few of the 6000+ images were “graphic and sadistic”. The vast majority of “child porngoraphy” is usually “level 1”, and need not involve sexual activity, exploitation or even harm of any sort (as long as they are merely “indecent images”). I also note that it is never claimed that Mr. C. glorified rape, murder etc, merely that he wrote about it. Maybe my cynicism will be proved wrong, but the point is, you *cannot* take that for granted.

        • Jonathan says:

          Apologies, one correction: when I wrote “the absence of those images” I did of course mean “the absence of those downloads”.

        • Jonathan says:

          On reflection, I am also wondering to what extent his stories involved e.g. “rape, torture and the murder of babies”. I am thinking it is entirely possible that such subject matter was mentioned briefly. The prosecution barrister stated that “mention was made” about how easy it was to kidnap and kill children in Eastern Europe, (@Susan: not that Mr. Carroll “boasted” about it, unless there is something I haven’t seen?). It would certainly be interesting to discover who used the phrase “utmost savagery and depravity” , and in what context.

        • Jon says:

          I agree that the press are generally not to be trusted when it comes to reporting on child pornography cases as they will usually seek out the most sensationalist aspects.
          The law would appear to disagree with you on the absence of material harm through simple consumption, which is one reason why possession of such images is an offence.
          Neither you nor I know the details of this case and so any comment on how many of the images fell into the most serious categories is pure speculation. However, the facts of the case will have been known to the Court, which saw fit to sentence him to 32 months in prison.

          • Jonathan says:

            I do not disagree that consumption is associated with harm (at least, very often), or that it should be criminalised. It’s just that you cannot conceptualise an individual’s contribution to harm by examining that caused to victims. It is as absurd as imposing a lengthy custodial sentence for a petty theft, citing the aggravating factor that every year, millions of pounds are stolen. That is not to deny that the petty theft is harmful: it is just taking rational account of the harm individually caused.

            That is one point on which do I disagree with the legal approach. I think it’s actually an interesting question as to whether the judiciary is satisfied with this approach, and whether in fact the current approach is just the most satisfactory known solution. I think there is some unrest. It is difficult to find evidence that these things are socially influenced, but I would wager that this is also a factor. It is certainly true that social pressures prevent controversial opinions being voiced at all, something that is clear in the literature.

            Of course, I agree that it is wrong to speculate. I hope I made it clear that was not my intention. I have however been present at many sentencings of this type. I cannot remember a single one (with a significant number of images, and really, 6000 images is quite low) for which only a minority of images were of the higher levels.

            In evaluating the sentencing, you may like to take account that if Mr. C. was found to have distributed or traded in a single image at any level, the starting point is between 2 and 3 years custody. From (page 113), assuming we can rule out showing and production, the appropriate guidelines are:

            “Level 4 or 5 images … distributed” -> 2-5 years custody (starting point 2 years)
            “Offender … has traded in, material at levels 1-3 ” -> 1-4 years custody (starting point 3 years)

          • Jonathan says:

            To add, I would take an educated guess that the images were of levels 1-3, given 1. the sentence is less than 3 years, and, from what I know, I can’t really see any mitigating factors 2. that the tendency is for the media to emphasise that the images were of “level 5, the worst kind” or “level 4, where level 5 is the worst kind” if they are higher, and to omit any mention of levels if they are of lesser seriousness.

  • Suzanne says:

    Susan,my character is not in question here. I have been a victim of just such a person, so from my point of view, no prison sentence is long enough for this man. The images on his computer were of real children, not figments of his twisted imagination.

    Mr. Lebrecht, I apologize if I misread you. I intended no disrespect and did not mean to infer that you were supporting the man in question. Perhaps legal proceedings in the UK are different than in the US, but the fact that he was a music teacher placed him in close contact with young people and I will not be surprised if we hear more about this case in the months to come.

    • Jonathan says:

      Susan, while I have every sympathy for whatever you have been through, that does not excuse irrationality. Sadly, arguments such as “real children in the images” are repeated so often that they become accepted as a rational reason to spew vitriol.

      Regretfully, a full justification of my view would be too extensive for a blog comment. However, a little common sense should entail that Mr. C’s personal contribution to harm is well below that of the most trivial crimes. Harsh sentencing does nothing but create a scapegoat. It certainly doesn’t incapacitate what is actually causing victimisation, (preventing victimisation by taking out a few contributors is like trying to drain a river with a bucket), and it certainly isn’t retributive. Effectively, it is just a deterrent – a public witch-burning for others to gaze upon and fear consequences. And, in my view, it isn’t even acting as an effective deterrent. There are millions of people with a burning desire to view sexy images of children. It can be achieved virtually without lifting a finger, (effectively) no personal contribution to victimisation, and in fact a very small probability of being caught? Good luck preventing that one.

      For me, if the tone of the reports is to be believed, it is his *other* online activities that raise concern. That sort of subject matter is in my experience, just as much out of the ordinary for a paedophile as anybody else. Of course, he may be perfectly in control of his actions but…