Computer Crime Research Center


Child porn scandal: net bursts

Date: November 21, 2004
Source: sundaymail
By: Jane Hamilton and Jamie Livingstone

Only one in seven of the 700 Scots accused of buying internet child porn in a massive police investigation have been convicted. The vast majority of the suspected paedophiles escaped prosecution in Operation Ore.

Their credit card details were found when police in America shut down an internet company selling grotesque images of child sex abuse.

Only those caught with more than 50 images of children - 158 of the 700 Scots - were even reported to the procurator fiscal.

A total of 105 were convicted with another 30 still to face court.

In August last year, Operation Ore was quietly wrapped up by Scottish forces amid fears the courts would crack under the pressure.

Last night, a source close to the operation said: 'No police force in Scotland had ever faced an investigation of this scale.

'It took hundreds of man hours to plough through the suspect list with the addresses being three years old when we got them.

'Having traced all the suspects we still faced a huge task to get enough evidence to get them to court, many had even destroyed the evidence when they heard about the operation on TV.

'Unfortunately, we had to let many of those with less than 50 images off with just a police caution.'

The figures, unearthed for the first time by Sunday Mail investigators, shocked children's charities and anti-porn campaigners.

A spokeswoman for the charity Children 1st said: 'It is good news that so many people have been taken to court. It is worrying that so many more have not been.

'Now that the police are aware of the scale of this form of child abuse, we need resources to match the need.

'Abusers must be shown that there is no place to hide.

ChildLine's chief executive Carole Easton demanded: 'Adequate resources need to be made available to ensure that more abusers are brought to justice.'

The arrest of a computer consultant in Texas led to the international criminal investigation which put immense pressure on police forces in three continents.

Thomas Reedy was jailed in 2002 for 1335 years for running an internet child porn ring which was far bigger than police had imagined.

Credit card details used to access his site gave police direct leads on 250,000 people world-wide.

In Scotland, prosecution rates varied across the country with the largest force, Strathclyde, charging only 60 people out of more than 400 suspects.

Crown Office figures reveal that just 35 of those charged with offences were convicted.

Lothian and Borders had 70 suspects and out those, 33 people were reported to the fiscal.

A spokeswoman said 26 people were convicted, four cases did not proceed due to a lack of evidence and two cases are still pending.

Those sentenced were either jailed, fined, served with probation orders or agreed to perform community service.

DI Ronnie Millar who led the Operation Ore investigation in the Lothians and Scottish Borders defended the low conviction rate.

He added: 'We are committed to continuing these operations to pro-tect children and show offenders that their crimes will be targeted.'

In Tayside, where the biggest collection of child porn was discovered, police identified 15 targets and reported nine to the fiscal. All nine were convicted in court.

Central Scotland Police had ten suspects. Half of them were charged but only two were prosecuted. One case is yet to conclude.

Northern Constabulary charged 12 people out of 24 suspects.

Ten cases reached court with every one leading to a conviction. Fife Constabulary searched 29 homes and retrieved more than 300,000 images.

They charged 13 people, resulting in six successful prosecutions.

Dumfries and Galloway had 11 suspects and reported five to the fiscal. Three were convicted.

Grampian Police secured 14 convictions from the 21 people charged.

The US Postal Inspection Service, who led Operation Avalanche - the American version of Ore - said they were not surprised to learn of the small number of convictions.

Inspector Ray Smith said: 'The British didn't have the expertise or the resources to deal with it.'

Jim Reynolds, of the Internet Watch Foundation said: 'It highlighted a lack of uniformity.

'You go to one court and they get their knuckles rapped and you go another court and, not too often, they get imprisonment.'

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