December 2020

BBC project manager caught watching child abuse on Zoom call claimed he was ‘lonely’

A BBC project manager caught watching child abuse on a Zoom call who claimed he was a “lonely gay man” was handed a suspended sentence.

Duncan Wheelhouse, 58, claimed he joined the chatroom to find “like-minded gay men” and was “surprised” by the images of child abuse being streamed.

This was rejected by a judge at Kingston Crown Court, who heard he pleasured himself to the images and made comments about the footage.

Judge John Lodge QC said: “The defendant, rather than indicating ‘why are we watching images of child abuse?’, participates in the online chat room – indicating to people in the chat room he shares such proclivities they might have in respect of those children.”

Wheelhouse, who has worked in television for over 40 years and also worked for ITV, was dismissed by the BBC after police came to his office to arrest him.

Prosecutor Richard Milne said: “There’s been a National Crime Agency investigation into child abuse in particular by the use of Zoom conferences.

“On the 23 March, 2018, there were three people present. This defendant in particular used the username ‘Gperve’.”

It said two Category ‘A’ videos and two Category ‘B’ videos were streamed on the chat, including the abuse of a baby and a 12-year-old boy.

Wheelhouse made a number of inappropriate comments, including references to the victim’s young ages, and was also seen taking drugs.

He was arrested in May 2018 and his home was searched, but officers did not find evidence of any indecent material on his devices or that he had Zoom installed on his computer.

Charges were not brought until March of this year and he appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court last month to admit two counts of possessing indecent images of children.

Judge Lodder handed Wheelhouse a jail term of four months suspended for two years and ordered him to carry out 40 days of rehabilitation activity.

Wheelhouse must also carry out a course designed at helping sex offenders and has been made subject to a sexual harm prevention order.

Wheelhouse, of Folly Bridge Court, Oxford, must also sign the sex offender’s register for seven years and pay court costs of £615.