BBC manager caught watching children being abused on Zoom claims he was hoping to meet ‘like-minded gay men’
A top BBC manager caught watching child abuse on a Zoom call, claiming he joined to meet “like-minded gay men”, has been handed a suspended sentence.
Duncan Wheelhouse, a 58-year-old project manager at the British broadcaster, alleged that he logged-onto the chatroom as he was “lonely”, only to be “surprised” by the images of child abuse being streamed, the Daily Mirror reported.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that Wheelhouse was trapped in a sting operation involving the National Crime Agency, a government law enforcement agency that tackles cybercrime, on 23 March, 2018.
Agency officers captured images and video footage of child sexual abuse which was shared with Zoom users on the call, prosecutors said. Wheelhouse, who worked in television for more than 40 years, was dismissed by the BBC after his arrest.
BBC boss who ‘attended chatrooms as a lonely gay man’ handed suspended sentence
“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,” said justice John Lodge.
Prosecutors explained that Wheelhouse used the username “Gperve” to tap into the video call along with two others while he was at home in his rented flat in Soho, London.
During the call, prosecutors said, two category A videos and two category B were streamed, including the abuse of a baby and a 12-year-old boy. Wheelhouse made several lewd comments throughout the chat, such as references to the victim’s ages as well as taking drugs.
Law enforcement searched his house after his arrest – none of his devices contained illicit materials and he did not have Zoom installed on his computer.
Prosecutor Arfan Ahmed said: “The defendant engaged in a virtual meeting on Zoom, corresponding with other people discussing child abuse, watching child abuse images being live-streamed.
“An officer from the National Crime Agency has effectively captured this evidence.
“We place this in a category A, the starting point is one-year custody.”
David Burgess, defending, said: “He has been shunned by his former colleagues, his employers, his friends, and in many ways he remains a lonely gay man.
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“It’s unlikely he will work again, certainly in the field which he has been. His future looks gloomy indeed.
“This is a man who has worked for the BBC and ITV and other news organisations for more than 40 years, unblemished service and it is nothing short of a tragic fall from grace for him that he should find himself sitting where he does today.
“He was at a pretty low avenue in life. Personal tragedy of the highest order in the last few years. Almost certainly that caused him to drink far in excess and take drugs as can be seen on the video footage involving crack cocaine.
“All sense of judgment seems to have deserted him. He attended chatrooms as a lonely gay man.
“He was taken by surprise when the images that he then voluntarily continued to watch were posted. It was not his design to see such images, he hadn’t done so before and he has never done so again.”
Wheelhouse was handed a jail term of four months suspended for two years. He must also carry out a 40-day rehabilitation programme.