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Briton jailed for child sex abuse

A Cambodian court has convicted a British man of sexually abusing three girls and sentenced him to 12 years in jail.

Police say 51-year-old Michael Julian Leach was arrested last September at a guesthouse near the capital, Phnom Penh. He was found to be living with three girls aged between 10 and 15.

Phnom Penh municipal court judge Oeung Seang also ordered Leach to pay 12 million riel (£1,880) to one of the victims. Compensation had already been paid to the other two.

Leach had previously worked in the UK as a telecommunications adviser for the Department of Trade and Industry and communications watchdog Ofcom before moving to Asia, it is understood.

The Londoner's conviction was welcomed by children's campaigners amid warnings authorities are not doing enough to combat British perverts embarking on child sex tourism. Cambodia has targeted sex offenders in recent years but it remains a magnet for paedophiles because of poverty and poor law enforcement.

Erica Hall, World Vision UK's child rights specialist, said Leach's conviction illustrated how important it was for Cambodian and British authorities to work together.

Such convictions were "just the tip of the iceberg", she added. "World Vision UK believes that there are many British sex offenders who continue to prey on children abroad with relative impunity. More research needs to be done, but there is evidence to suggest that as South East Asia becomes an increasingly difficult place in which to operate, not least because of convictions of offenders such as Leach, offenders are targeting other countries, closer to home."

Registered sex offenders are still allowed to travel overseas without telling the UK authorities as long as they return within three days.

Ofcom confirmed Leach worked for the regulator for three years until 2008. "It was a very junior role advising on radio spectrum matters," a spokeswoman said. A source close to the investigation said he worked for the Department of Trade and Industry, now the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, until 2005.

A spokesman for the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre said: "We welcome this conviction and the response of the Cambodian authorities in bringing Michael Leach to justice."

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