Fife woman (73) jailed for child abuse

Muriel Melville
Muriel Melville

A 73-year-old Fife woman has been jailed after sexually assaulting a child and sharing images of the abuse online.

Muriel Melville from Dunfermline carried out the abuse after speaking to Michael Leith (48), through grossly offensive chat messages.

She admitted the offences at Edinburgh High Court and today (Tuesday, September 22), she was sentenced to four years and four months in prison.

Leith, from Cumbria, himself pled guilty to inciting Melville to commit the sexual offence and has been sentenced to 18 months.

Detective Inspector June Peebles led the investigation locally in Fife, and said: “Michael Leith and Muriel Melville clearly had a very warped relationship which was mainly conducted online.

“Melville, an elderly female, was considered to be a trusted upstanding member of the public, however, this investigation very quickly identified that she had chosen to abuse her position of trust to feed her own and Leith’s sexual gratification.

“Police Scotland is committed to identifying people within our communities who prey on vulnerable children, and we will utilise all tools and resources available to protect them and prevent their abuse.”

The online chat and then distribution of the images was key evidence analysed by the East Cyber Crime Hub.

Detective Inspector Brian Stuart heads up the specialist unit and said this is one of the most unusual and disturbing cases his team has investigated.

“For a female to be the main offender in a child sexual abuse inquiry is extremely rare - but this case demonstrates it does happen. Encouraged by Leith, Melville exploited a defenceless child and then shared the abuse online.

“Online offences are not victimless - these indecent images were of a real human being. We have been able to remove that child from harm and bring those involved to justice.

“Police Scotland has dedicated teams targeting online offenders across Scotland, supported by experienced forensic analysts who leave no stone unturned in order to identify victims and protect them from further suffering.

“In this case, the two offenders were only 120 miles apart, but wherever we find abuse is taking place, we will act. The web may be worldwide, but so is law enforcement and the commitment to protect vulnerable children across the globe.

“Police Scotland is embedded within this international structure alongside the National Crime Agency and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, Europol and Interpol, partners who will do all in our power to tackle child sexual exploitation together.

“We will continue to pursue those offenders who think they can hide online.

“Police will find you, and where there is evidence to suggest involvement in child sexual exploitation you may be prosecuted.

“You could lose your family, your livelihood, your liberty. We will give your victims back their lives - a fair exchange in my book.”

Anyone with information about such offences being committed in the community or online should contact Police Scotland on 101 or 999 if a crime is in progress.

Alternatively, information can be given to the charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

For information about how to keep your child safe online, who can help and where you can report inappropriate, illegal or indecent images involving children, visit the CEOP website.