back to article Disappearing filth leads to dropped charges in extreme smut case

The stumbling progress of extreme porn case law continues with Newcastle magistrates dropping a charge of possessing a single image of extreme porn – because local police and prosecution appear to have lost the evidence. Not only is this embarrassing, but anyone out and about in the Newcastle area who happens across the dodgy …


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  1. PerspexAvenger

    In other news...

    Please feel free to commit as many high-tech crimes in Northumbria as you like, as they don't appear to have a functioning computer forensics team there...


    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Or ...

      ... they have been persuaded by the CPS to take this course of action since they have realised that there is no sensible chance of getting a jury to convict on such a pointless crime!

      (OK, maybe a bit paranoid, but the cases of "extreme porn" so haven't been very successful at trial).

  2. thefutureboy

    Ah, I see!

    "When we made the original decision [to charge], the image was provided to us on disc. The defence requested details of where the image was on the computer and when the computer was checked, the image was no longer there. In light of that, we felt we could no longer go ahead with the case."

    The old "Cut & Paste" rather than "Copy & Paste" mistake I'll wager.

  3. Samuel Walker


    Another person who doesn't know the difference between Copying a file, and Cutting a file.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Keystone found in Northern England

    At last, I now know where the Keystone Cops come from.

    1. Colin Brett

      Geordie speaking

      I'm a Geordie, born and raised, and even I despair when I see stories like this. I thought Northumbria plods were quite good? At least they caught that Moat character (whose last words were "Divvent tayze us man!")

      At least we're better than the Bristol plod who, according to the headlines: "Jo police turn to Facebook". Using Facebook for a criminal investigation? Surely the headline should have read "Jo police f*cking clueless".


      1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Surely Bristol up to date with Tech?

        Colin: "At least we're better than the Bristol plod who, according to the headlines: "Jo police turn to Facebook". "

        There are probably a good deal of younger people who don't buy newspapers and don't watch much TV (there's nothing on these days!). A lot of them will use FaceFriends*, and maybe a small percentage of these leave the house occasionally, so may have seen something?

        I would think it means that Bristol Police are keeping up with technology, unlike "File, what's a file?"

        *FaceFriends was brought to you by the IT Crowd, and was a most excellent episode :)

  5. Old Tom

    Archived Disc Image?

    Surely the first thing the fuzz would do in such cases is archive a cloned copy of the disc in question?

    1. John Riddoch

      depends on tech savviness of plods...

      Given that I've even seen the techs on CSI boot up laptops for evidence (only to see it being deleted by remote-wipe software, of course), you have to wonder...

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Yes but...

      Yes, but could they present the clone as actual evidence?

      It's a copy, not the original.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ skelband

        I think they use the clone for the initial investigation - preserving the original from any screw-ups. I agree that the clone, especially once played with, is not useful as evidence. For that you need the original.

  6. Craig 12

    Joking aside

    This is quite serious... I thought everything was strictly controlled drive cloning, not booting in to windows to burn a disc.

    I'm guessing they didn't even check the recycle bin?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother


    The fact that the only evidence was one image, does indicate something amiss here.

    Could it be lab error, wouldn't be the first time somebody mixed up the evidence.

  8. Eden

    I'm sure i'm not the first or last to say

    DOH Ctrl V instead of Ctrl C (Assuming they use windoze which seems almost a certainty)

    Then i suppose they either didn't consider it worth trying a forensic recovery of the file (Don't they normally make images of the drives before messing around with the contents though??) was worth it or that it hurt their prosecution chances enough to drop it.

    And i'm not being funny but with the AWFUL definition of extreme porn, only a single image is really quite impressive, I'm sure I could trawl through any random machine and find a half dozen images cached somewhere that would probably fit the description.

    1. Steve Evans

      You probably are the first and last to say it...

      The short cut is CTRL-X for cut, CTRL-C for copy and CTRL-V for paste... Same on the Mac except use the Apple only tangled string key instead of CTRL.

      A friend of mine was thinking of applying to join the computer forensics team so me being a techie she showed me some of the blurb and procedures... Let's just say that if anyone thinks outside the box a bit, they'll probably get away with it. All the processes they carry out are 1,2,3 steps etc. Could be done by my mother to be honest. Even a script kiddy has more idea of what is going on.

      Then again, given the salary, I wouldn't expect many people with real IT ability to be hammering at their door for a position either.

    2. Naughtyhorse


      I take it you _meant_ <ctrl>-X not <ctrl>-V there

      <ctrl>-V is paste as any fule kno

    3. Elmer Phud


      I bet they didn't even use Recuva - which is free.

  9. Hooch181


    Wonder how much that cost the tax payer?

  10. Graham Marsden

    Come on, Coalition...

    ... you've had plenty of time, there were enough responses to your Freedom Bill consultation objecting to this stupid law , so get your bloody fingers out and get rid it before we see more cases like this one

    * * * * *

    A MAN who downloaded staged images of sexual violence against women has gone on trial under new laws banning "extreme pornography."

    In one of the first cases of its kind in the country, Kevin Webster is accused of having "grossly offensive or disgusting" pictures, even though they are "fakes".

    Darron Whitehead, prosecuting, told jurors [...] "We know the images were fake. The question is whether it is realistic or portrayed in that way.

    "The intentions of the persons within those images are irrelevant. It is what is depicted in those images which is material."

    * * * * *

    WTF? We know they're fake, but because they *LOOK* realistic, we're going to prosecute him anyway!

    1. envmod


      using this argument - surely there are a large amount of horror films which are now illegal to view as they depict graphic and disgusting violence - a lot of the time sexual violence.....films like Hostel, Antichrist etc... the fact that it is not real is apparently not relevant. I mean, shit....half of Hollywood needs shutting down as they're clearly peddling filth designed to warp people's minds.

      1. Jess--

        you could really come unstuck with films like that

        while you may get away with copies of hostel etc I wonder where you would if you were to take screengrabs from the film at key points

        could be interesting since you would also be classed as having created the image so it wouldnt just be possessing extreme porn it would also be producing extreme porn.

        of course if you sent the image to anyone else then you would be classed as creating, possessing and distributing extreme pornography

      2. Graham Marsden


        "surely there are a large amount of horror films which are now illegal to view"

        No, because the law contains a specific exclusion for films which have been BBFC classified, but only in their *entirety*

        64 Exclusion of classified films etc.

        (1) Section 63 does not apply to excluded images.

        (2) An “excluded image” is an image which forms part of a series of images

        contained in a recording of the whole or part of a classified work.

        (3) But such an image is not an “excluded image” if—

        (a) it is contained in a recording of an extract from a classified work, and

        (b) it is of such a nature that it must reasonably be assumed to have been

        extracted (whether with or without other images) solely or principally

        for the purpose of sexual arousal.

      3. Arbuthnot Darjeeling

        @half oof hollywood needs shutting down...

        I'm with you there, bud

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Graham Marsden

      You appear to be muddling the law against possessing grossly offensive or disgusting pictures with the law against creating said material and the anti-violence laws.

      Somebody somewhere has decided that we are too immature* to decide what we do and don't want to see and has, out of the kindness of his heart, decided for us.

      Whether or not they're fake is irrelevant.

      *said person might have a point: if I ever meet him my incisive argument against his beliefs would be a swift kick to the groin.

      1. Graham Marsden


        Trust me, I'm not muddling anything up.

        Both cases involve the same law (Sections 63 - 68 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008) and involve *possession* of these images, the one that I cited just goes even further that the one mentioned in the article and takes it to its ludicrous extreme that *even though* the Prosecution accepts that the images are fakes, it falls under Paragraph 7 of Section 63 ie:

        (7) An image falls within this subsection if it portrays, in an explicit and realistic

        way, any of the following—

        (a) an act which threatens a person’s life,

        (b) an act which results, or is likely to result, in serious injury to a person’s

        anus, breasts or genitals,


        and a reasonable person looking at the image would think that any such person

        or animal was real.

        My sincere hope is that the Jury will see sense and say "This is a stupid law, we don't care what it says, we're going to find the defendant Not Guilty".

    3. Keith Williams
      Thumb Down

      This is a Ctrl-C title

      Many places judge the intention rather than the fact. In Canada it is unlawful for someone to depict someone underage in porn, even if the person doing the depiction is over the age of consent. If a reasonable person were to view the image and come to a reasonable belief in it's accuracy, that is all that counts.

    4. Jacqui

      corrupt plod

      My understanding...

      The plod ignored the techie who explained the recovered image was in a place on disk that means it would be difficult to prove "ownership/intent" and would suggets the images was never accessed by the suspect. They simply pass the image (on a CD) to the CPS and hide the information that would sop the CPS from starting a prosecution.

      The defence ask for details - the CPS ask the police who forward the request to techies. Techies repeat what they originally said to the (now promoted) police officer and the case is dropped due to lack of evidence. This costs us taxpayers roughly 100K each time this happens!

      Until we stop rewarding the plod for hiding/constructing evidence and (perjury) we are going to see more and more cases dropped where a competent defense shows how the police hid evidence for personal gain.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Black Helicopters

        Its standard plod/CPS practice

        At a magistrates court level to "manipulate" disclosure.

        The way it works is they only disclose whats relevant to getting a prosecution and then hope the defence (usually legal aid) is too overworked to demand all the material marked as either unused or more normally CND (clearly not disclosable)

        If it is marked CND then the defence have to apply for the court for disclosure before they get to see the evidence and its a lottery if they get the application granted even though the law supposedly forces the disclosure of all relevant information. Even if you win an application getting the disclosure can be hard work, especially if you know it shows innocence and so do the plod.

        Its not uncommon for the CPS to fail to disclose properly at the primary level in 25% of cases.

        Its likely that in this case, like many others the defence was awake enough to ask a simple key question and rather than disclose and show that they had failed on primary disclosure its easier to offer no evidence, sweep it over and move on.

    5. Graham Marsden

      Re: Come on Coalition

      A follow up to that post:

      Kevin Webster has just been cleared of any wrong doing.

      "It's good to know ordinary members of a jury can tell the difference between fantasy and reality, even if the law and its enforcers decide that the distinction doesn't matter."

  11. David_H

    Deleted or moved

    It was caught up in the IT departments hiding of their filth!

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Any chance...

    ...of a Playmobile reconstruction of the event to aid understanding.

    By aid I mean mercilessly rip the piss out of the village idiots^H^H^H police.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Lest ye forget.

      Making, possessing, distributing such images is illegal. Which is why they deleted it for fear it was a honeytrap and and why you'll, likely, never see a Playmobil reconstruction. Moreover, only one of the Village People was a policeman, although I would agree they all looked like idiots.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Hold On.

    ...If they are using the original drive, then booting up a drive alters it's state. Therefore defence can claim the evidence has been tampered with. That's why the drives should be cloned and evidence obtiained from the cloned drive.

    Something is not right here.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Hello Northumbria Constabulary?

    I am qualified and experienced in computer forensics and currently looking for a job and it would seem that you have a position that needs filling...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Sounds like you have just

      rule yourself out

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Something smells off..

    One image, as in singular? Smells more like a fit up or a downloading accident. How were they reported?

    From what I can see, the porn industry works by continually offering new material to its customers. Looking at the not insubstantial quantity of (non extreme) porn on my hard drive, it is unsurprisingly populated in rough proportion to the things that turn me on. There's a lot of my favourite turns ons and rapidly less of activities I find less arousing. One off images don't exist - either I like it and search out a bit more, or I don't and it's deleted.

    I suggest this may be another 'Tony the Tiger' case where it was forwarded from someone else. Just because it's in your e-mail inbox doesn't mean you approve or appreciate it.

    1. galbak

      en title?


      The post is required, and must contain letters.

  16. Frank Bitterlich

    Does it count as extreme pronography...

    ... if I take a photograph of anybody holding the disc with the lost image in ther hands?

    "The one with the Acronis logo pin on the lapel, please...!"

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Police incompetence - freedom's friend...

    Another reason why the disc should be cloned: the police really ought to return a copy to the owner rather than mete out extra-judicial punishment by denying a "presumed innocent" person access to their (possibly important) data.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      but as always ...

      it's the naive that suffer ... any half respectable IT savvy person would have some form of backup plan in place, which would mean plod could steal all their IT kit, and they would be back up in minutes ... let me see

      Off-site clone of OS (possibly many OS images, if you virtualise)

      Off site base data backup (possibly no more than a month old)

      On line differential backup account (in false name etc, for the truely paranoid).

      With the cost of storage falling all the time, it'd be quite easy to use a couple of 1TB USB drives, park them at a mates house, and job done. Bit of truecrypt and plod have a problem ....

  18. Anonymous Coward

    We need to know

    What was in the image?

    How did this person get caught for having one image?

    Were they reported or was it a case of looking at the computer as part of a different investigation?

  19. JohnG

    "...and when the computer was checked, the image was no longer there"

    Was it in a browser cache which got cleared by a scheduled cleanup, shortly after the PC was powered up for the first time in several months?

  20. Blubster

    Isn't it bleedin' obvious?

    Some copper's nicked the CD for his collection

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Hmmmm. DOESN'T ADD UP.

    Something smells in this story. We are not privy to the full story.

    Standard *proper* forensic analysis of a PC starts with the PC being powered *down* and the hard drive physically removed, and cloned. The original is then stored, and never accessed again. All work is undertaken on clones attached to other computers. This insulates the investigator from any chance that the boot-up process is compromised. It also means that the defence can be given an exact copy of what the investigators worked on.

    It's been this way for *years*. So it's hard to believe the forensic team managed to mess up here.

    However it's easier to believe that a budget concious, IT-illiterate (and possible tech-hating[1]) police officer decided to get cheap forensic "analysis", and is now paying the price.

    [1] Repeated contact with many policemen over many years has shown me that your average officer has a luddite mentatilty, and is *deeply* suspicious of anyone who "knows science". It you ever stopped by plod, never reveal you have any great technical knowledge.

    1. mtek

      Old method?

      Memory dumps on the live machine if possible?

  22. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Hey plod. Stop loosing the evidence.

    Start loosing the stupid laws instead.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    fit up

    As AC 16:50 says, the filth don't do computers and cut n paste just isn't a mistake that could be made by the forensics bods. The guy was fitted up. Good defending and I hope they crucify the evil bastards that sent the pic to the CPS.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Forensic failure

    Surely they recorded where on the drive it was located, e.g. the physical sector? Assuming that they worked off a forensic image it can't possibly have disappeared. They did work off a forensic image didn't they....

    And charging for a single image? If there had been a few extreme images I could understand it, but anybody who regularly surfs the web for adult porn is bound to pick up the odd unwanted image. I can only assume that they had some evidence that he had actively looked for that type of material.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters


      Because it's a strict liability offence, there's no need to look for evidence the defendant was actively looking for the material. Plod find it - BANG - time to meet Big Ron in the showers.

      People missed what NuLab were up to ... quite a few of their laws removed the need for any intent to do wrong. Makes it harder for a jury to acquit. Theres more ways than one to scrap jury trials .....

      1. Intractable Potsherd

        But fortunately...

        ... juries have a tendency to bring in "perverse judgments", i.e. they ignore the law and do what is right instead!

  25. kain preacher

    were did the disc come from ?

    Is it just me or does it seems like some sent a CD to the plod with porn on it and said go and get him ?

  26. mtek

    Uh, What?

    Sounds like the evidence image was provided on a CD? Meaning it could never have been a full disk image unless it was a circa 1990 4GB drive or an encase EWF format image? which is very very unlikely.

    Unless they actually cut/copied the image from the original pc then put it on a CD and handed it in? then couldnt find it on the original machine? in which case wasnt a bit-for-bit clone taken at the time of seizure? uhm, what about using encase/ftk to recover? or are they actually working from a live machine? non-writeblocked?

    Not enough info here, sounds innacurate/moronic to say the least.

  27. JaitcH

    Plain, ordinary, non-kiddie porn is largely a 'victimless' 'crime'

    Why are Plod wasting so much time and money on adult (as in the 'model' being over 16-18) entertainment/pornography?

    Way, way back in the early days of 'local' TV, in Toronto, Channel 79 - the highest UHF channel on the dial, so that a minimum area of viewers could see it in case of 'problems' - was permitted to run soft porn.

    Every Friday they ran 'Baby Blue Movies' just before midnight. Some were so 'hot' for the time the Plod used to search all over for the telecine that was being used to produce the pictures. Both the station - to keep the programming going, and the police - to stop the movie, went to extremes.Unfortunately the Plod couldn't seize a remote feed cable.

    Around that time I knew a 'sex squad' detective and he said that the police actually liked the transmission as all his 'clients' would be watching and offences (in real life) would drop on Fridays. Electronics stores would actually leave their demo TV's, in their display windows. turned to Channel 79 and many of the 'street' people would gather around and watch.

    These transmissions were so popular that viewers in Buffalo, New York State, made significant investments in Yagi antennae so they could see them better.

    I have yet to be persuaded that adult sex video's actually cause crime. It seems that viewing this material crosses all social strata (I seem to remember the husband of a Labour MP charging his habit to her expenses).

    There was a church convention at the former Westbury Hotel in Toronto, also years ago, the local cable company (Rogers) provided pay-TV to the hotel. One of their technicians told me that this convention hit the No.1 spot for adult viewing during this convention. Better to entertain themselves in their rooms than on some poor choirboy.

    The laws dealing with 'porn' seem intended not so much as to eliminate it but rather to pander to the prurient voters to satisfy their thirst for 'action'. The 'do gooders' try to force their narrow standards on the rest of us - with little effect.

    Chasing down child pornography viewers seems equally pointless - the REAL problem is in the producers of this material. Please don't tell me they only do it because there is a market for it, the images appeared before the market was developed.

    Children, unfortunately, have long been subjected to sexual abuse by real people for centuries - not viewers - so why chase the viewers?

    Better that the Plod do so real work like disrupting drug supply lines rather than trying to score headlines with a pornography 'bust'. What of all the 'white collar' criminals that stole millions from people by devaluing their bank accounts and pensions.

  28. Frank Fisher
    Big Brother

    You were warned, perves.

    First point - when the police 'lose evidence' it's normally because they want to.

    Second, yes, the extreme porn alws are JUST as stupid and illiberal and wide-ranging as they appear. You can indeed be jailed for five eyars if you take snippets from perfectly legal, BBFC-rated films, IF they think your main purpose for doing so is to have a wank. I'm not joking, and I have been banging on about this for some time. Three years in fact

    Will the coalition repeal this stupid law? Nope. No government ever abandons power. Instead, when it is shown not to be "working" they'll decide it needs to be 'toughened' up. And all the 'liberals' will applaud.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      "Banging ..."

      fnarr fnarr

    2. CD001


      Why would liberals applaud the toughening of a law you've just described as "illiberal"?

  29. Mark .

    Re: @Graham Marsden

    "You appear to be muddling the law against possessing grossly offensive or disgusting pictures with the law against creating said material and the anti-violence laws."

    There is no law on creating these images, only on possession. I don't think Graham Marsden is muddling anything, he's well aware of what the "extreme porn" law covers.

    "Whether or not they're fake is irrelevant."

    Indeed, it's irrelevant as far as the law is concerned, but it demonstrates that the law is mad. (There were also some supporters of the law who insisted that it was only meant for "abusive" cases, and dismissed critics' concerns as being paranoid. They were wrong.)

    Thankfully the jury agreed, and he was found not guilty: Whether or not they're fake is irrelevant.

    Re: Police incompetence - freedom's friend...

    Indeed - for any kind of investigation, I do think it's a problem that these days a "search" warrant means seizure of your PC(s), your phone, any kind of electronic equipment. Which then is denied to you for perhaps months, and when you get it back, who knows whether any data will be lost.

    In today's world, the Internet is becoming a necessity, and PCs/phones are essential for many people's communication and in many cases livelihood. Why is this procedure still going on, for people simply suspected of a crime?

    Re: You were warned, perves.

    "And all the 'liberals' will applaud."

    I was entirely agreeing with your post, but confused by this point. As someone with liberal views, I don't applaud this law. Whilst I'm not expecting the coalition to remove the law (though I wish they would - I don't think it would be that much of a problem politically), I'd be surprised if the Lib Dem policy was to applaud this law. That wasn't their party position when this law was passed, and it was some Lib Dem MPs (and Lords) who spoke out against the law.

  30. TkH11

    @Keith Williams

    I don't know if the extreme p*n laws in the UK evolved to this, but there certainly was talk in the development phase of these laws that they would create a new age of thought crime.

    It sounds as if in Canada they already have that!

    The idea is no longer that you are guilty of a particular offence based on simple evidence, but that the law tries to get inside your head and make a judgement of how you interpret the image.

    And everyone interprets images differently, so for some people, they'll be guilty of the offence, for others they wouldn't be.

    It's an absolutely crazy Orwellian concept.

  31. TkH11

    Creating the Images

    But surely, if you create the image, you must then by definition be in posession of the image..and thus guilty of the crime..

    So creation of the images, whilst not explicity defined within the law as being illegal, must be by definition also be illegal.

  32. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    If you're voting down because I thought the UK Police can repeal UK laws..

    I'm well aware that only parliament can repeal laws.

    However senior UK Police officers have a *very* close relationship with the senior civil servants of the Ministry of Justice and can certainly *influence* their advice to the relevant Minister and hence the parties in office.

    Weather or not they *will* do so is another matter.

  33. a_c_g_t

    The Plod in general

    It reminds of the scene in Zoolander where Ben Stiller gets a call to tell him the files are hidden in the computer.

    He then proceed to throw the pc out of the window to see if he can get to them.

    I bet that's what happened

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