APRIL 2009

Community shock over paedophile former Wandsworth Oasis boss

Colleagues and neighbours of former charity boss Colin Ralph expressed outrage this week at his secret love of child pornography and the leniency of his sentence.

To many, he was an outgoing, happy man who loved karaoke, while to his partner of 12 years and her 13-year-old, he was a caring father.

Some heard he stayed up all night on the computer at his home in Louisville Road, Tooting, but no-one suspected his secret perversions and there were no signs of him acting strangely towards local children.

Ralph was an ambitious chief executive at Wandsworth Oasis Trading, a HIV charity which has shops in Trinity Road in Tooting, Mitcham Lane in Streatham and Battersea Park Road in Battersea.

Gillian Carver-Chaplin, who works in the Tooting shop, said: “I was shocked. I always thought he had a funny way, but I just thought that was him.”

Ralph, 43, downloaded porn featuring children as young as eight but escaped being jailed at Kingston Crown Court on Friday.

He admitted 24 counts of “making”- or downloading- indecent images of children and one count of possessing them and received a three-year community order.

Speaking after the case, a neighbour in his 40s said: “I thought he’d get a custodial. How’s this sentence a message to others? Where’s the punishment? It makes a mockery of what’s happened.”

A woman in her 30s, who knew Ralph for five years, added: “I’m fuming. I have children myself. I don’t know where the British justice system is going.

“The child victims will be imprisoned in their own heads for the rest of their lives. They’re not going to have a normal life like he is. I reckon he should have got at least ten years.”

During the case, prosecution lawyer Simon Stirling said the material featured naked children aged eight to 14, some performing sex acts on themselves, each other or adults.

The court heard the material was discovered on Ralph’s work laptop in January last year after colleagues tried to retrieve files from the hard drive which he had wiped.

Police were called and Ralph was dismissed, but he tried to claim Spanish volunteers also had access to the computer.

Officers found Ralph had downloaded 19 images and five films, the severity of which ranged from level one to level four on the police’s five point system.

He had also accessed a number of child sex websites, and 374 other images and films were found on the laptop.

Ralph moved to Spain to work as a hotel entertainments manager, but returned on August 24 after police summoned him for arrest.

Defence lawyer Jon Swain said Ralph needed help and claimed his problems may stem from being sexually abused as a child.

Sentencing, Judge Welchman said: “It may be said that you deserve a period in custody, but the concern for the court is what happens thereafter.

“That you might be in prison for a few months and then are discharged back into the community with no supervision.”

Ralph was ordered to sign the sex offenders register, banned from working with children and given a three-year community supervision order with a sex offender group work programme.

A spokesman for Wandsworth Oasis Trading said: “This was an unfortunate episode in Wandsworth Oasis Trading’s history. We consider the matter closed.”