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SAUNA'D OFF; Charges dropped against sheriff-link parlour.

Byline: KRISSY STORRAR

CRIMINAL charges against a sauna where a sheriff was caught in a police raid have been dropped.

Sheriff Hugh Neilson was questioned by police who busted the controversial Royale sauna in Glasgow - but claimed he was only there for a shave.

The sauna was raided by cops probing a sex slave trafficking ring.

The brothel's madam, a 31-year-old woman from Lanark, was due to appear at Glasgow Sheriff Court yesterday.

But the case was dropped at the last minute.

Prosecutors confirmed last night there would be no further proceedings in the case against the accused "madam".

A Crown Office spokesman said: "We can confirm that the case against the 31-year-old woman was called for a second time. But it was decided there would be no further proceedings." Crown Office insiders claim that a problem with finding witnesses was the cause of the case being dropped.

But they denied that publicity surrounding Sheriff Neilson convinced them to drop the criminal case.

The 51-year-old sheriff was suspended earlier this week while his "fitness for office" was being investigated.

It was claimed that Sheriff Neilson was found in the waiting area of a well-known Glasgow sauna when a group of police officers investigating the trafficking of young immigrant women conducted an operation on the site. A spokeswoman for Strathclyde Police declined to comment on the reports.

But she said: "During the last month, two premises were the subject of police operations involving uniformed and plain-clothed officers in relation to on-going targeting of criminal activity surrounding the sex industry. _ A number of persons have been reported to the fiscal in relation to the operation and also the management of these premises."

On Wednesday, Scottish ministers suspended Mr Neilson, who receives a salary of pounds 119,000 and presides over the youth court at Hamilton Sheriff Court.

At the time of the suspension, it said there would be no comment on the circumstances leading up to the probe until it was completed.

Sheriff Neilson could be removed from office if he is found "unfit for office by reason of inability, neglect of duty or misbehaviour".

Sheriff Neilson has refused to comment in detail on his suspension.

But speaking at his home in Airdrie the church-goer said he was "blessed with the support of my wife, family and colleagues in these trying times".

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SUSPENDED: Neilson
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 11, 2004
Words:394
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