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Major UK Child Porn Investigation Flawed 372

Posted by kdawson
from the ruining-innocent-lives dept.
Oxygen99 writes "The Guardian (UK) is carrying a story on Operation Ore, a major police investigation aimed at catching online pedophiles. This has resulted in several high-profile arrests, such as those of Pete Townshend and Robert Del Naja (both falsely accused), while attracting significant press attention. Yet, the reality of the investigation is one of stolen credit cards, wrongful accusations, and ignorance leading to a significant number of the 7,292 people on the list being wrongfully accused of a very emotionally charged crime. There have been 39 suicides and a number of other people on the list will probably never be investigated. It seems to me this case highlights flaws inherent in the way law enforcement agencies handle evidence that only a small minority of front-line officers fully understand."
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Major UK Child Porn Investigation Flawed

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  • cameras watching your every move, laws designed to control your behaviour [asbo and the like]. Congrats, you live in a nanny-police state.

    If only they could actually do anything meaningful with all this "order" they're creating.

    Tom
  • by slusich (684826) * <<slusich> <at> <gmail.com>> on Thursday April 19, 2007 @11:48AM (#18799049)
    Police are stunned to learn that people who look at child porn might use stolen credit card information to pay for it.
    Seriously, because child porn is such an emotional issue, everyone tends to leap without looking. Sadly this results in a lot of false accusations and lives ruined. Because these charges are so serious, officials must take more time before jumping to conclusions over any accusation.
    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Thursday April 19, 2007 @11:52AM (#18799127)
      The reason that everyone jumps on this bandwagon is because it gets the votes.

      Everyone hates it. Everyone wants the government to "do something about it". Everyone wants it done today.

      So very little thought is put into these projects and the more people that can be swept up, the better. That way you're fairly sure, statistically, that you'll get one of the "bad guys".

      But it seems more likely that you'll catch an innocent, high profile person who's appearance in your project will reveal how flawed that project is.
      • by eviloverlordx (99809) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:04PM (#18799353)
        Absolutely. It seems to me that the rash of pedophiles is very similar to the rash of cases of 'satanic abuse' and 'daycare abuse'. I don't doubt that there are pedophiles out there, and I agree that they need to have, at the bare minimum, psychological help. However, the hysteria around this issue is nearly unbelieveable.
        • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:40PM (#18799991) Homepage Journal
          Oh, there are defiantly people who want to have sex with kids out there. They are rare however and the chances of having your kid abducted for sex are absolutely minuscule. Still, the chance is nonzero and because it's such a sensational and heinous crime you can be assured that there will be parents clamoring for the authorities to do something about those people.

          The worst part is all of the people who are more than willing to give up liberties a-plenty to only slightly improve the safety of their children. The worst part is that they'll insist that you give up the same liberties and yet still their children aren't much (if at all) safer.

          IMHO, this situation is likely to get out of hand if we keep going on the same path. For instance, poorly thought out legislation in Miami forces "sex offenders" (which can be a very broad term these days), to sleep under bridges because they literally cannot buy a home that is not in some form of restricted zone (too close to a daycare, school, playground, mall, etc...). As a result you have people who may have had some minor mental problems before being forced into vagrancy and the myriad of problems associated with that. Not to mention the difficulty in keeping track on someone who lives under a bridge. The very laws designed to make the children safer can in fact make them less safe because they've gone too far.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by VWJedi (972839)

            For instance, poorly thought out legislation in Miami forces "sex offenders" (which can be a very broad term these days), to sleep under bridges because they literally cannot buy a home that is not in some form of restricted zone (too close to a daycare, school, playground, mall, etc...).

            Interesting... but does the law work the other way? Is it illegal to build a daycare, school, playground, mall, etc. near the home of a sex offender?

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by QCompson (675963)

              Interesting... but does the law work the other way? Is it illegal to build a daycare, school, playground, mall, etc. near the home of a sex offender?

              Not sure about Florida, but in many states, if a daycare, school, bus-stop, playground, mall, etc. is built near the home of a sex offender, then the sex offender has to move.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 19, 2007 @02:20PM (#18801749)
            "
                    The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people.
                    As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children,
                    the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation.
            "
                    -- Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler, Publ. Houghton Miflin, 1943, Page 403

            captcha: are you swayed by these arguments yet?
          • by arth1 (260657) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @02:32PM (#18801985) Homepage Journal

            The worst part is all of the people who are more than willing to give up liberties a-plenty to only slightly improve the safety of their children. The worst part is that they'll insist that you give up the same liberties and yet still their children aren't much (if at all) safer.

            The irony is that if they really wanted to make children safer, it would have much more of an effect if they monitored all parents 24/7 than Joe Random Sexoffender. A child runs a much greater risk of being molested by its parents than anyone else.

            Yes, unfortunately it's a very emotional issue, and reason always loses to emotions. The same people who would march for liberty issues will often gladly ruin the life of someone on a mere possibility of being a sex offender.

            And bad as it is, the reaction is way improportional to the crime. If you attack someone and cripple them for life, it's considered less severe than having sex with a minor, or even fantasies about sex with a minor. Mind you, most people who have had sex against their consent manage to lead normal lives. Some don't, but that's partially because it's blown so completely out of proportions. You're expected to feel devastated and incapable of going on. But even those that do get emotional scars are still not as harmed as, say, someone who has become paraplegic after being beaten up. Why should sex offense be punished harder than other violence?
          • by Paulrothrock (685079) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @03:25PM (#18802769) Homepage Journal

            Your daughter is more likely to be raped by the guy she goes to the prom with than some stranger in a dark alley.

            Your children are far more likely to be sexually abused by someone in your own family than a stranger in a car offering candy.

            Your gun is more likely to kill someone you know than a criminal breaking into your house.

            Seems to me that we're fighting bogeymen we create so hard because we're scared shitless that someone we know could be capable of something like that.

        • and you'll see the witch trials.

          There's always SOME hysteria around that can be used to drive a personal agenda.
      • by sumdumass (711423)
        Well, When Townshed claims he was doing research on the subject as his first initial defense, I can see how everyone jumped on that band wagon.

        But true to form, the media was more then willing to loudly claim he was doing something wrong, publicized his admission however minor it was but I have heard nothing on him being proved innocent nor have I heard that his credit car numbers were swiped. This is just typical and example of how this can ruin someone. I heard he was a kiddie porn watcher but not that th
    • by Znork (31774)
      "Police are stunned to learn that people who look at child porn might use stolen credit card information to pay for it."

      Take a look at the article; it's even worse, a whole lot of the supposed transactions werent even that, they were scams set up by the webmasters themselves to cash in on credit-card fraud. Apparently the police didnt even check enough to notice that a whole lot of the cc transactions were more or less batch registrations run from the same IP adresses to scam the payment service.
    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:28PM (#18799789) Homepage Journal
      No doubt. A little lesson in critical thinking applies here. If people are going to break the law to get some child porn, don't you think that they might try to hide their actions by breaking the law, too? I suppose these same police would be shocked to learn that even in jurisdications where radar/lidar detectors are illegal, many speeders use the devices anyway. Except that speeding isn't such an emotionally-charged issue as child porn; speeders are looked at as a minor nuisance to be given a fine and sent on their merry way, while pedophiles are viewed as being evil, vile creatures that must be stopped at all costs. Not that that perspective is wrong, mind you, it's just that strong emotions tend to cloud the thinking of folks who would otherwise be consummate professionals.

      • by jimicus (737525) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @04:25PM (#18803609)
        If people are going to break the law to get some child porn, don't you think that they might try to hide their actions by breaking the law, too?

        I hate to break it to you, but the UK government is only just realising this.

        True story: a couple of years ago I wrote to my MP (parliamentary representative) and pointed out that criminals, by definition, do not obey the law.

        Several weeks later I received a reply informing me that "the government was aware of this, was trying to think of ways around it and wanted to know if I had any suggestions",
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      It's not about "police" so much as there are particular personalities that do not make good officers. Unfortunately law enforcement is particularly attractive to these kinds of people and at least in America there are few if any processes to keep these kinds of situations in check.

      You have to give us (Americans) credit though. We don't even bother with spurious or weak evidence, our officers just make shit up wholesale and abuse/intimidate 4 year old girls into saying whatever their sick psyche's want to he
    • slusich "Police are stunned to learn that people who look at child porn might use stolen credit card information to pay for it. "

      You got that backwards. The stolen credit info was used by a few people who also sold Child Pr0n. Not even a major percentage of them either. It was association by remote proxy. The 'Investigators' (and it sickens me to call them that) might as well have used a regular copy of the yellow pages found at the crooks house and picked names randomly, "We found their names at the crime
  • by jcgf (688310) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @11:49AM (#18799065)
    The government has no interest in prosecuting child porn offenders. They have found the perfect way to get rid of someone without anyone protesting. Simply accuse them of child porn possession and you've pretty much got an open and shut case. Judges are in on the system and juries have been trained to see anyone accused of such a crime as guilty until proven innocent.
    • Because this is exactly what is going on.
    • by Ckwop (707653) * <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:39PM (#18799975) Homepage

      That's nice rhetoric and a few years ago I would have believed this too.

      However, having lived in the United Kingdom and having been involved in a prosecution of an offender, I can say that this could not be further from the truth.

      The truth is that it is very, very hard to prosecute somebody for child porn possession if they're will to fight it. The "It was a virus defence" almost always gets the case chucked before it even reaches a jury. There's this thing called "continuity of evidence" and it's a hard hurdle to jump over (and rightly so).

      He who alleges must prove and if you can't show any evidence that the virus didn't put it there then the guy walks free. Remember, to convict you must disprove the defence's point.

      The defence is always better funded. To see why this is so, consider this: wouldn't you be if your liberty and life was at stake? People well gladly sell their house for the best lawyer in these circumstances. By comparison, the state fights these cases with people just out of their pupillage.

      In the case I was involved in, I was certain the man was guilty. I was willing to get up on the stand and testify to that fact. He should have gone to jail for a long time and the fact he still walks the streets and cares for his children leaves me sick in the stomach.

      That said, it is better than ten guilty men go free than a single innocent go to jail. This principle is the basis of our entire criminal system. Even after this experience, I still believe in this principle one-hundred percent. If ten paedophiles have to go free to prevent an innocent man's life being destroyed, I begrudgingly have to accept that. That, as they say, is the price of freedom.

      Simon

      • by jcgf (688310)
        rhetoric: a term used by dishonest intellectuals to dismiss valid points for which they have no counter arguement.

        Someone uses something like that as a sig, seemed appropriate here

      • by computational super (740265) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:51PM (#18800193)
        People well gladly sell their house for the best lawyer in these circumstances.

        I'm not sure that's really a shining example of justice in action, assuming the person accused was actually innocent (as were so very many of the accused in TFA).

        • by arth1 (260657) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @02:46PM (#18802207) Homepage Journal
          The accused will also be stigmatised for life. Too many people think that where there's smoke, there's a fire, and will not believe a verdict of innocent, and definitely not a case that was thrown out without the defendent being allowed to clear himself.

          Over here on the other side of the pond, it also doesn't exonerate you. A mere arrest bars you from getting a lot of jobs, no matter how innocent you were. You can, in some states, fight to get the arrest record cleared, but that's at your own expense, and is a time consuming process. And money is something you don't have if you've been arrested, lost your job over it, and all your savings already having gone to lawyers in the first round. So chances are that even if acquitted, you'll end up without a job, without money, and having to move a new place due to stigmatisation. I'm not surprised that there are a lot of suicides, even among innocents. That's worse than what most children go through.

          Another issue is that many of the pedophiles, while guilty in the eyes of the law, never ever laid hand on a child, nor paid a single dime to anyone who did. Downloading pr0n from newsgroups or publicly accessible websites, and they still are treated like they have raped these children? I don't get it. Yes, they have a problem. As long as they haven't hurt anyone or paid anyone else to hurt them, give them help, not punishment!
    • by fishybell (516991) <fishybell@@@hotmail...com> on Thursday April 19, 2007 @01:13PM (#18800573) Homepage Journal
      I just had a dear friend of mine go through this exact issue. It wasn't about child pornography, but rather, the more serious charge of child molestation (or some similar charge with a more legal sounding ring to it).

      The evidence presented was extremely slim, the witness statements all changed significantly, and several charges were dropped due to lack of evidence. In the end the jury only had a few charges left, but with hardly an hour of deliberation found my friend guilty on all of the charges. The judge noted, in court, that he believed the jury had come to the wrong conclusion and wasn't looking at the evidence, but merely reacting to the accusation. Because of minimum sentancing guidelines he was left with no choice and sentanced him to 25 years (parole possibility at 5).

      After my friends family dumped their public defender and got a real lawyer he has a new trial up for scheduling soon. Assuming the new jury only hears the evidence not thrown out (things like testimony given during "play-therapy" and accusations from a person who's accused practically every man she's ever come in contact with of the same thing) he could be out of prison by the end of the year. The problem is, the damage has been done. He's been discharged from the navy, he's got 40k in student loans, 4 kids, and his reputation has been tarnished beyond repair. Any future employers who do a background check will never give him a second chance. He's trained as a nuclear reactor technician, but it's that's definately the kind of job that requires a background check.

      Assuming he ends up spending the next 5 to 25 years in prison (and this the [state.ut.us] federal rape-him-in-the-ass, shiv-me-50-times-until-I-stop-moving, not-in-a-racist-gang-before?-you-are-now prison) he'll end up on the sex-offender registry. On there he'll be hounded by neighbors everywhere he lives. Neighborhood kids will pelt his house with eggs just because.

      Assuming he doesn't kill himself inside prison (he's off the suicide watch now, thank god) he's not looking at a pretty shitty life whether he wins or loses.

      For a good description of exactly the kind of thing that happened to my friend, read The Dark Tunnels of McMartin [geocities.com]. This is probably the best site on the horrific media frenzy involving preposteruous claims by dozens of preschool students against their teachers (among other similar cases about sex abuse and the like). It started with one small claim, then it escelated. When the parents asked if the teachers had done bad things to them they made up stories in an attempt to make their parents happy. One of the absurdaties involved a tunnel for underground sex orgies and animal torture. If this sort of thing was brought up in a court about a car theft, the whole case would be thrown out. Because it was a think-of-the-children case, it was taken all too seriously by not just the court, but the media as well.

      The truth is, child testimony is too easily coached. The only statements worth looking at are the original statements made. In the case of my friend, the original statement was that the girl had walked in on my friend masturbating. He was in a closed room at night. His wife was at a girls-night-out party, and apparently he got a little bored/lonely. He committed no crime, but because a child saw it things blew out of proportion. Even worse, she was less than three at the time and didn't really understand what she saw. However, as the years passed her parents kept pressing if anything else had happened. The constant bombardment of questions led to her changing the story and giving the police a statement that my friend wouldn't let her play a specific video game unless she touched him. Never mind the fact the video game in question didn't exist when the supposed event took place, but she would have been two at the time. She didn't play video games, and my friend didn't have the console to play it on, or a T

      • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @02:57PM (#18802365) Journal
        I have a similar story. My friend's spending 4 consecutive life terms in a federal prison based on testimony of a foster child who had falsely accused every previous foster house he'd been placed with of molesting him (which information was not admitted as evidence to the trial) and accused my friend of doing stuff he's physically incapable of doing (which is why he was being a foster parent, not a biological one.) Unfortunately, my friend A: got a bad lawyer, and B: showed up visibly inebriated one day of the trial, which factors overwhelmed the positive testimony of over fifty other previous foster children on his behalf. So he's locked up for the rest of his life for something I'm 97% sure was completely fabricated.

        It taught me something, though: I have nothing whatsoever to do with children, and actively avoid being in a room with them unless their parents are there. I used to work in science education for primary students, as a volunteer and tutor, but never again.
  • Credit card? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @11:49AM (#18799069) Homepage
    Who would seriously by Child Porn on their own credit card? You'd have to be a really dumb person. If that's all these cops are going on, then the investigations should be shut down. It should be expected that the people purchasing are using stolen credit cards.
    • While I am most certainly not saying that someone who doesn't report a lost or stolen credit deserves to be accused of being a pedophile, credit card companies do hold people responsible to cancel a card the moment it becomes lost or stolen and to report any purchases that are out of the ordinary or suspicious.

      I agree with your entire message, I just want to point out that if you lose a credit card and don't immediately report it stolen then this type of thing can happen. People need to take the personal re
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy (595695)
        What if it's not even your credit card? What if someone figured out your SSN, Birth Date, and a couple other key piece of information, and opened a credit card in your name. It would technically be your card, but you wouldn't even know you had it. How are you supposed to take responsiblity for a credit card that you don't even know you have.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by zappepcs (820751)
          You have just named one of the very most important reasons for monitoring your credit report on all three credit agencies. The reports will show an enquiry on your credit and then the opening of a new account.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by CastrTroy (595695)
            They should just make it a lot more difficult to get a credit card. I have all the credit cards I need. I don't need any more. They should make it much harder to get a credit card account. Why should I have to monitor everything? How often should I get a report? Every Week? Because I'm pretty sure it's possible for someone to ruin my credit in less than a week.
            • You can flag your account so that you're notified anytime someone does something in your name.
            • Why should I have to monitor everything?

              uhhhh, because its YOUR CREDIT. Seriously, this attitude is part of the problem. Who do you want to be in charge of monitoring your credit?
          • Re:Credit card? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Herkum01 (592704) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:14PM (#18799523)

            You point an inherit flaw that the government and businesses work. It is your responsibility to figure out if "THEY" gave out fraudulent credit cards, SSN cards, birth certificates, drivers license.

            I would say, if businesses and the government had to pay for hardships they caused someone else they would not be so quick to shrug their shoulders when an obviously questionable situation arises.

          • It runs contrary of privacy laws.

            Did you realize the title of the article included the two letters "U" and "K", juxtaposed? It means "United Kingdom", not "United States."
        • by Billosaur (927319) *

          My question is: What kind of "research" was Pete Townshend doing? [thesmokinggun.com] He seems to have used his own credit card and visited a site where this stuff was available.

          • They seized his computer and found no evidence that he had downloaded anything from the site in question. There was no evidence that he had gone to any other sites. The judge gave him the benefit of the doubt, since it was clear that he had just been an idiot. It was incredibly moronic, but I'm not sure why he was brought up at all in the article, because he admitted he had entered his credit card number.
        • From TFA:

          Online, criminal groups trade thousands of stolen credit card details (including number, expiry date, name, address, and even date of birth, email, password and mother's maiden name), priced by potential fraud value, ranging from $30 (£15) for an unexploited Visa Gold card to $2.50 each for a bumper file of 4,000 stolen American Express card and user details.

          So the bad guys are swapping/selling LOTS of info.

          Some British victims of card fraud who later suffered from police mistakes in Operatio

        • What if someone figured out your SSN, Birth Date, and a couple other key piece of information, and opened a credit card in your name

          They still arrest the guy who lives at the address where the bill goes (I would think). If the bill goes to the perpetrator, they have their man. If the bill goes to the identity theft victim, that's something of a tip-off to the person under whose name you're trying to hide.

          • by CastrTroy (595695)
            And what if it goes to some non-existent address? What then. Who's to say if the real person signed up for the credit card and redirected it to some other address so they could pretend it was a fraudulent card, or that it actually was fraudulent card, and the person signing up for the card didn't want to get caught?
      • by Qzukk (229616)
        report any purchases that are out of the ordinary or suspicious

        "Honey, what's this $50 charge from pedo.com?"

        Most likely whoever was running this charged the cards in small amounts to an account like "Joe's BBQ" or something else far less suspicious.
    • yeah really (Score:4, Funny)

      by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @11:59AM (#18799267)
      I use paypal
    • It should be expected that the people purchasing are using stolen credit cards.
      Or not realizing quite what they're getting. Until a couple years ago when stuff that was clearly children started showing up, I always assumed a porn website advertising "Illegal Lolita!!!" material was recording 18 year olds in pigtails -- basically like the sites that pretend to be tricking people into having sex on camera.
  • Baby Boomers make terrible lawyers.
    • by unity100 (970058)
      are these baby boomers or forsaken generation of 80es yuppies ?
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        80s YUPpies were Baby Boomers, too.

        They also volunteered for Vietnam in greater total numbers and percentage of servicemembers than did their parents for WWII.

        Their counterpart in the US, Attorney General Gonzales, is live on TV right now (unconvincingly) lying his way through his botched conspiracy to replace the US prosecutors with ones more completely in the pocket of the "Permanent Republican Majority" scheme that's turned this country into a lawyer's paradise littered with victims amidst corporate anar
        • by unity100 (970058)
          heard about gonzales and his maneuvers to escape attorney firing scandal's way.

          but baby boomers were also the hippies then. that means much.
  • Related Cases (Score:5, Informative)

    by giafly (926567) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @11:51AM (#18799107)
    No evidence against man in child porn inquiry who 'killed himself' [independent.co.uk]
    The inquest into his death heard that computer equipment and a camera memory chip belonging to Commodore White had yielded no evidence that he downloaded child pornography, and a letter was written by Ministry of Defence police to Naval Command on 5 January this year indicating that there were "no substantive criminal offences" to warrant pressing charges. But the Second Sea Lord, Sir James Burnell-Nugent, feared that the media would report the case and on 7 January removed him from his post anyway ... the commodore was dead the next day.

    In one case at Hull Crown Court last year, a distinguished hospital consultant was acquitted after it emerged that hackers had used his credit card on Landslide. The judge dismissed some police evidence as "utter nonsense".
  • the events of this case means that law enforcement must take due diligence when hunting child pornographers

    it doesn't mean that law enforcement should stop hunting child pornographers

    you would think this is an obvious difference, but you watch the kinds of comments these sad events conjure here

    the problem, of course, is shoddy law enforcement. but whenever something like this happens- the police bungle it big time, people come out with comments pointed against the very concept of law enforcement itself
    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:12PM (#18799501) Journal
      It's almost always shoddy investigations that lead to these sort of wrongful accusations (and in some cases wrongful convictions). Cops looking to boost their careers by charging people with heinous crimes (and in particular aiming at some fairly well-known people as this operation did), prosecutors looking to get a few scalps on their own belts and politicians wanting to be seen getting tough on crime all feed into a system that is incapable of cautious consideration.

      Accusing someone of accessing child pornography is just about one of the worst that one can come up with right now. It's the vogue crime-to-catch, and whether it's some prime time news magazine setting up these guys or cops running out to find every one of them that they can on the Internet, it's all about public paranoia. But once you've been labeled, I'm not sure there is a way out. Sure the judge might toss it out with prejudice if the case was particularly bad, but you're likely to be stuck with the stigma forever (He just got away with it, got off on a technicality.) and that sort of thing.

      I think the proper way to handle this in the future is for prosecutors to be threatened with disbarment and cops be demoted or outright fired if they institute "operations" like this that go as wrong as this one has. Making the people who actually have the power personally responsible is the only way to assure that in the future they think long and hard before they make public accusations that they can never really take back.
      • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @02:30PM (#18801949) Journal
        I think the proper way to handle this in the future is for prosecutors to be threatened with disbarment and cops be demoted or outright fired if they institute "operations" like this that go as wrong as this one has

        Wrongful arrest is nothing less than kidnapping and assault. Cops and prosecutors who make false arrests should get nothing less than hard prison time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rhakka (224319)
      Maybe that's because police "bungling it big time" is an inevitability, and the fallout to innocent people is so potentially great that it needs to be treated as seriously as possible?

      The police like to complain about having their hands tied, and other complain about our military having their hands tied... and when we don't, we get this and Abu Ghraib.

      This illustrates exactly why it is dangerous to assume that people with the power of sanctioned violence over regular people will handle that power responsib
  • ...won't be fooled again
  • IIRC... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Otter (3800) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @11:59AM (#18799247) Journal
    This has resulted in several high-profile arrests, such as those of Pete Townshend and Robert Del Naja (both falsely accused)...

    There could certainly have been developments in this since however many years ago that it happened, but didn't Pete Townshend acknowledge having sought out and downloaded child pornography, claiming it was "research"? Whether or not you believe that, he certainly wasn't "falsely accused" in the sense used in the story.

  • I knew someone (Score:3, Interesting)

    by throwaway18 (521472) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:02PM (#18799305) Journal
    A friend of some of my friends, a man I run into about once a year was caught up in this.
    The story I heard was that he claimed innocence but pleaded guilty as the legal advise he got was that he would be let off with a fine but he would definetly be found guilty and sent to prison if he tried to fight it.
    • Better to go to jail fighting the charge than to accept it and live with the label for the rest of your life.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sokoban (142301)

        Better to go to jail fighting the charge than to accept it and live with the label for the rest of your life.
        Says the person who has never spent time in jail or prison.
  • In 2003 Townshend was cautioned by the police after acknowledging a credit card access to a website alleged to advertise child pornography in 1999. He claimed in the press and on his website to have been engaged in research...

    Why yes... "Research"... That's it...

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by guruevi (827432)
      Well, what's the matter with research? Are we going to kill scientist next for saying there is global warming caused by man? Or are we going to round up the law enforcement in this investigation since they saw or had contact with child porn?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by robably (1044462)

      Why yes... "Research"... That's it...
      A perfect example of why these charges are so damaging. Once you've been named that's it, you're a demon, doesn't matter whether you're guilty or not.

      Anyway, Pete (who has a parallel career as a writer) posted an article on child pornography on his web site before the charges arose [wikipedia.org].
  • Typical of Britain (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:04PM (#18799363)
    Coming from Britain I can say this is typical of our government. They are of the impression all it takes to solve a problem is to assign someone (typically totally unsuited) to the task of assigning money to agencies or companies (with the greatest kick back) with absolutely no insight into how to handle things and then sitting back thinking how to BS there way out of the mess that inevitably ensues (just watch them on the news, they are experts at dodging the questions they get asked about how they fucked up again).

    The way they try to fix this is to create new agencies in between agencies.. all this creates is more paper work that never finds its way into the correct hands and causes more problems and tax pounds which could be better put elsewhere.

    Britain is essentially becoming a broken beurocractic piss hole.
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by kahei (466208)

      Having watched rooms full of English people feeling *so happy* and *so righteous* to be giving another 1% of their income per year to the NHS, I have to say if ever there was a national decline that was the fault of the individual people of the nation, this is it. The UK has got *exactly* what it demanded.

      Seriously, I will never forget that budget with the giant tax hike for the NHS. The public really were literally *happy*. They don't pause and think whether giant IT projects with no defined results, bu
  • While I hope of course that legal authorities learn from their mistakes (although sometimes it seems that the only thing they learn from - and that grudgingly - are massive lawsuits, and I'm sure these revelations will spawn plenty) - I hope every story like this encourages another person to read every credit card statement, carefully and completely. I keep an eye out for fraudulent charges (and not just the patently illegal stuff - it is that telemarketer for your card company lying and telling you there
  • by iamacat (583406) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:20PM (#18799637)
    that even being accused of it should ruin one's life. Virginia Tech shooting had a false suspect. The mistake has been revealed and he is fine now. Why should this be any different? We can not allow ourselves to become so horrified by anything that we embark on a witchhunt without due process and skepticism. Otherwise, corrupt government or an angry neighbor can ruin your life by just suggesting you are a pedophile. Or distract people from real problems - deaths in Iraq, global warming, poverty - by dishing out some juicy news to keep the media busy.

  • Stolen numbers? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phorm (591458) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:29PM (#18799815) Journal
    From what I read in some of the linked articles, in many cases it wasn't so much a case that stolen card numbers were used, but rather that the portal/payment access site processed payments for merchants both legal and illegal (but if you were found with a payment, it was assumed to be illegal). At least according to the PC Pro Mag link from the wiki entry

    For example, let's say that they found that a paypal account was used to sell illegal pornography. The smart thing to do would be to determine which goods sold were illegal, and if possible follow up on the buyers. What seems to have been done, instead, was to go after EVERYONE who bought from the seller, whether the purchase turned out to be for fuzzy bunny slippers or underage smut.

    Unfortunately, these type of charges, and the revulsion the instill, tend to inspire an automatic assumption of guilt coupled with overzealous prosecution and an lack of desire to delve too far into the evidence (after all, if there are illegal images, who would want to be the one that has to sort through them all). What I really can't understand is that while the actions against the assumed purchasers of said material were rapid and heavy, the providers of the material were left fairly untouched.

    Maybe it's just my point of view, but I'd imagine that the sellers of this variety material - especially those with enough resources to start a full payment network - would be much less than the seekers. However, it's easier for the police to leave those that actual peddle in and commit atrocious acts active, as it allows them to dragnet all the possible users. Bust the drug addicts and leave the dealers?
  • We currently give law enforcement officials far too much leeway. The individual officials involved, not the state, should be held responsible for situations where their failure to engage in responsible behavior leads to a miscarriages of justice.

    The best example of this by far is the exclusionary rule in the United States. (I don't know how this sort of thing works in other countries.) It is rare for a police officer who obtains evidence improperly to be punished for their (sometimes outright illegal) ac
  • by Applekid (993327) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @01:51PM (#18801211)
    ... compared to being marked with the Scarlet "Pedo" marker forever.

    (disclaimer: from a US perspective)

    Before a trial you are destroyed. Your face gets in the local paper. Reporters show up at your home and place of work and hassle you and your family. Your home is ransacked in the name of gathering evidence. Local politicians and big wigs claim it's a victory for the children and call you a monster. News interviews your neighbors who are all amazed and shocked and now they, of course, don't feel safe. They might just deny you bail on a judge's whim and toss you in a jail cell. You better believe that when guards hear "that pedophile pervert" calling for help to protect him from other cellmates they're not going to rush to his aid. You're let out? Expect lots of threatening phone calls and letters.

    Assuming you're aquitted because you didn't break any laws, the damage is DONE. Nobody will ever see you the same way again. News of your name being cleared isn't shouted quite as loudly as the accusation. What a surprise.

    Can you really blame the falsely accused in this case comitting suicide? It's really tragic how lives can be ruined just by pointing a finger.

    I know if I was falsely accused I'd probably kill myself, too.
  • by Wildclaw (15718) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @02:14PM (#18801615)

    And currently up for discussion is the UK is a new law that would ban fantasy depictions of underage (that includes imaginary 17 year olds) having sex. Here is an interesting link and some quotes from it.

    http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/cons-2007 -depiction-sex-abuse?view=Binary

    We are unaware of any specific research into whether there is a link between accessing these fantasy images of child sexual abuse and the commission of offences against children, but it is felt by police and childrens welfare organisations that the possession and circulation of these images serves to legitimize and reinforce highly inappropriate views about children.

    In other words, the proposal discussed is based on no scientific research. It is purely aimed to ban a specific minority fetish. Violent video games is another minority fetish that has been under attack in the news lately.

    It is all pure bullshit. Banning soccer games would be more logical, since there is a clear scientific link of soccer games leading to hulligan behavior. Of course, this doesn't mean that I want to ban soccer, but I am just pointing out the obvious bias of the legislators.

    It is the case that cartoons, drawings and material created entirely by manipulation of computer software do not harm real children in the same way as taking indecent photographs of children [...] Nevertheless this material is causing increasing concern both within the UK and internationally (see below). The police [...] are concerned that the fantasy images themselves fuel abuse of real children by reinforcing potential abusers inappropriate feelings towards children.

    Just to point out that this isn't the same as the US child pornography laws, that explicitly bans images/drawings based on real children/photographs (which was a loophole used to circumvent previous laws). This law explicitly targets fantasy drawings, the most common type probably being the japanese hentai artform.

    collectors of material of this kind almost always also have indecent photographs of children.

    I don't. And I am pretty sure most hentai viewers/readers don't. Oh, and in case you wonder, I am mostly interested of the highschool based hentai (which would also be illegal if the proposal above was passed as a law). I fully support the rights of lolicon viewers though. This is a classic case of the "First they came for the Communists, and I didnt speak up..." scenario. They target a minority fetish because they can get away with it.

    Anyway, What research do they base their statement on? Unless they have asked XXXX number of people randomly about it...and I doubt that would work either, because very few people would admit they had child porn on their computer.

    The relation in the other direction may be more likely though. Child porn collectors are probably likely to have hentai drawings. That relation is easy to find, by looking at the computers of people arrested for having child pornography.

    Finally, Don't begin complaining that hentai sucks and I should watch real porn instead. I can't stand real porn with their payed actors and actresses having mechanical sex without feelings. Not, to mention that the redicioulus story lines in hentai movies/mangas are light years beyond the stories in the average porn movie. Oh sure, there are a few exceptions of great scenes, but they are by far the exception. If I didn't have hentai, I would probably stick with sex stories (which I still use sometimes). And I am not saying that you shouldn't watch porn. I am just explaining why I and probably some others prefer hentai. And, oh yes, having real sex is of course the best, but that has nothing to do with masturbation needs.

  • ...has delisted [theregister.co.uk] the site that was informing the public of these issues, Inquistion21.com [inquisition21.com] at the request of the FBI and other child pornographers! Yeah, that's right I called the FBI a bunch of child pornographers, because chances are nine times out of ten whenever you come across a site offering child porn its being run as an entrapment scam by various government officials. The other time, the one out of ten tends to be a site that's being falsely colluded into being child porn, like the whole webe web case. Since when does wearing a swimsuit become porn? [blogspot.com]

    As another poster has already pointed out, this is just another example of thought crime and those who wish to use it as a bid to take more control over the lives of others.

    --I*Love*Green*Olives

  • by GoatSucker (781403) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @03:42PM (#18802993)
    I've got first hand experience of this. My close friend was accused as part of Operation Ore. He came around sobbing one afternoon, after the police had crashed into his flat at 7:00, searched through all his stuff, took all his computer equipment (which he needed for his work, and contained irreplaceable files) and took him down the station.
    That night he slit his wrists.
    *Luckily* another friend went round there the next morning, and found him barely alive in a pool of blood.
    Since then, after several months of recovery, he's lost his flat and had to file for bankruptcy. And yes, he was one of the victims of credit card fraud.

    That's just one of the reasons I've since moved from the UK.
    Don't let anyone tell you the UK isn't a Police State - they're too blind to see the reality.

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