back to article Judge hits police with massive bill over false Operation Ore charges

A man wrongly accused in Britain's largest ever child pornography investigation has won damages in the High Court after an eight-year legal battle. Jeremy Clifford, 51, from Watford, was arrested and falsely charged in 2003 as part of Operation Ore. His credit card details had been found among those of thousands of British …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Damn right on bigger damages

    £7 for every day of your life that has been ruined is a pisstake.

    1. exexpat

      Possibly the worst thing you could be associated or charged with

      and they pay £20k damages?? You would probably get more from the council tripping up over a broken flag...

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        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Thumb Up

          AC@14:53

          "Blackstone's formulation is the principle: "better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer","

          Sadly the UK under nuLabor seemed to favor Stalin's view that better a 100 innocents go to jail than 1 guilty man goes unpunished.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @John Smith 19

            Actually, nu Labour seemed to mostly take the view that everyone had done something wrong so the worst that could happen was someone getting locked up for the wrong crime.

      2. GrumpyJoe
        Thumb Down

        How illegal?

        Bear in mind that I could quite possibly have illegal images on my hard drive going around legitimate sites - 'UK' illegal is not 'global' illegal. A hentai image? Any anime showing a 'supposedly' young girl in a compromising situation?

        BDSM where it looks like the other person is not enjoying it? Tony the tiger having sexual congress with a human woman? The Olympic logo?

        Without knowing WHAT images were on that disk we can't judge him - check your hard disk sometimes and make a judgement. Unless you stick to the Cbeebies website you could be harbouring 'illegal' images as well.

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  2. DJV Silver badge
    Grenade

    BASTARDS!

    See title.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Quite Right Too

    For a full essay on those affected by the perjurious Ore, check out Inquisition 21 web site.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    A modern day witchfinder general.

    Sadly, unlike the original, he probably won't get pleurosy.

    Just remember folks, this is where crying 'think of the children' leads.

  5. Roger Varley

    .. and DC Hopkins needs a damn good kicking

    as well, for deliberately ruining a life to "protect his own position". Words fail me.

    1. Mark 65

      and what's more

      "Despite this, the officer, Detective Constable Brian Hopkins, pressed three charges of possession of indecent images of children. Mr Justice Mackay said he cut a "rather pathetic figure" in the witness box, having initially claimed he could not give evidence because of a psychiatric condition."

      He did have a psychiatric condition - he's a lying, deceitful, malicious little prick who would rather ruin someone's life than do the right thing (and his duty to uphold the law).

      1. Keith T

        An apparently contagious condition caused by a "staff virus"

        An apparently contagious condition easily transmitted staff meetings by a staff virus, since it apparently lead the rest of his department to support the malicious charges.

        The poor dears should be sent to police the sheep on some tiny remote uninhabited Scottish Isle while they recover.

  6. technome
    WTF?

    This is the bit that gets my blood boiling:

    A spokesman for Hertfordshire Constabulary said: "Legal advice was taken beforehand and it was advised and expected that we had a reasonable chance of winning our case."

    They knew that they were wrong to prosecute against expert evidence in the first place and they knew that their prosecution had caused real damage to an innocent person and yet they still fought the case because they thought they'd get away with it.

    How fucking dare they...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Just Cause" corruption

      In the '70's the police in Birmingham cost the "lives" of the Birmingham 6. There was also the "Carl Bridgewater Affair". Other Police Forces did the same on the basis - and continue to do so - see Private Eye - that the arrestee had done it they just didn't have enough evidence.

      The police appear to have, in their arrogance, learned nothing and now put the public purse to greater expense in their benighted desire to "think of the children".

      How many more genuine nasty creeps have escaped justice while the police defend the indefensible with Our taxes.

      Will any senior officer be held to account, lose their livelihood or suffer public opprobrium becasue of this debacle? They might get a bit of a set back in their Knighthood or MBE/CBE... or what have you.

      1. Mark 65

        @AC

        "Will any senior officer be held to account, lose their livelihood or suffer public opprobrium becasue of this debacle?"

        Don't be silly, Hopkins will be on the golf course somewhere enjoying being pensioned off early.

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Damage limitation

      The possibility also exists that it was fought purely to limit the damages. 20k may actually be low and the police secretly happy with it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trouble is, the police probably will not have learned from this.

    Why? The taxpayer foots the bill.

    This kind of abuse of power will continue until there are definite and personal consequences to the entire chain of police command involved.

    The New Labour Government also decided to push through more and more ways for the police to make someone's life miserable and utterly destroy their career - with fewer and fewer checks against it happening.

    And ACPO seems to wonder why the common man has so little respect for the police.

    Maybe they should use their 20% cuts to get rid of the trash?

    There are a lot of really amazing police officers who do a very tough job extremely well for very little reward - but such petty officers like this destroy the entire Force's credibility and make the job so much harder for everyone else.

  8. Richard 120

    Poor bloke

    Not only is the recompense inadequate, I've no doubt that he's now well known by the constabulary and whilst they may not try to fit him up any more.

    I'm damn sure he won't be given the benefit of the doubt. Ever.

    Call me a cynic, but I reckon there's a few coppers out there clenching their fists thinking this is one that got away.

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      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AC 14:16

        "IIRC he also won't be able to use the fast-track visa system for a holiday in the USA".

        Well, given his present circumstances he probably couldn't afford a holiday. Besides, since the malicious and baseless prosecution against him originated in the fabrication of evidence by an American policeman, I doubt if he would want to go anywhere near that country.

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          1. Anonymous Coward
            Unhappy

            Makes sense.

            The more attention focused on the (25% of) perverts out on the street, the less gets focused on those (75%) inside the house.

            1. Naughtyhorse
              Unhappy

              decimal point?

              2.5% perverts on the steet

              97.5% pervs in the house.

              there fixed it for you :-S

              now to fix the real problem

          2. Gordon 10 Silver badge
            Stop

            Dont Blame the US

            It relieves our own home grown morons of the culpability they deserve.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AC 14:16

        'As Home Secretary David Blunkett said "buying a child an icecream is sufficient for a police investigation". He also said "No innocent person should have any fears about the outcome of their investigation"'.

        Which is why many of us will never again buy a child an ice cream (with the possible exception of our own children - provided there are no witnesses, of course). Or, indeed, speak to a child, help a child, or even look at a child.

        No good deed goes unpunished.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up

          @Tom Welsh

          "No innocent person....."

          That's true - it has been my experience (previously posted here, anonymously, of course) that in this Stazi-like country you are presumed guilty until proven guilty. If there is not sufficient evidence to sustain that proof, then modify and mis-represent the evidence until it is sufficient.

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  9. Demosthenese

    Legal Advice

    "Legal advice was taken beforehand and it was advised and expected that we had a reasonable chance of winning our case."

    And you didn't spot the vested interest here. Of course the lawyers 'believe' you have a reasonable chance when it is a guaranteed unreasonable payday for them.

    1. The Original Ash
      WTF?

      Since when do the police decide anyway?

      I thought it was the job of CPS to decide if cases were worth prosecuting.

      Police collect evidence, CPS assess it for potential of conviction against public interest, courts prosecute. That's the separation of power. Police have no place in deciding if a case is worthy of prosecution.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not entirely true

        Although the CPS do generally give the go-nogo, the Police are able to persue prosecution in _some_ cases regardless of what the CPS say.

        I was, however, under the impression this was only in fairly trivial cases, not sure accusing someone of being a pedo quite falls under the category trivial!

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          1. Jess--

            cps probably let it through

            I would imagine the cps were given something like...

            "cant get these images without clicking on the child porn banner" bit mentioned in the other ORE story

            "we found these images" (not mentioning they were thumbnails)

            "credit card has been used on the sting sites" (not mentioning the disputed CC charges)

            given those lines and the large number of other "similar" cases resulting from ORE I would imagine it got the green light from the cps fairly easily

      2. The Good Wife

        Since when do the police decide anyway?

        CPS not to blame. DC Hopkins did not tell them all that he should have. He suppressed the evidence of his forensic expert.

  10. Ally J

    Hmm

    I wonder what the additional serious charge was? Not in any way to blacken Mr Clifford's character, just an interesting look into the way Plod's mind seems to work: "Get him in front of a jury charged with two things, and hope they're sufficiently swayed to find him guilty of the lesser one".

    It's very, very scary to see that someone *known* to be innocent is pursued just so a copper doesn't look stupid. That on top of the mess that was Operation Ore is quite chilling.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmm

      I might be completely wrong here but isn't there some sort of conspiracy offence if you pay for child porn? The idea seems to ring a bell but it could have just been some speculation I heard rather than an actual offence.

      The evidence relating to the credit card fraud would have cast serious doubt on any such offence if it is on the statutes.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wrong headline

    The headline makes it sounds like the guy got a big settlement -- £20,000 is nothing.

    Headline should be: Police Destroy Man's Life -- Judge Awards Token Payment

    1. Keith T

      or rather

      Judge Rules Police Maliciously Destroy Man's Life By Obstructing Justice -- Judge Awards Token Payment

      And that is the thing, this is not just a civil matter, there is the very serious criminal act of Obstruction of Justice, made worse because it was committed by a police officer on duty.

  12. hplasm
    Megaphone

    Yet again they trot out 'Lessons will be learned'

    When what people want to hear is 'Heads will roll.'

    Never happens though.

    1. Stratman

      title

      Marginally less unlikely is "Deputy heads will roll"

  13. Ally J

    Have we tapped CEOP's Jim Gamble for a comment?

    I think we should. Didn't he say that Ore was the subject of many false conspiracy theories, or something like that?

    I'd just really like to get his view on this.

    Aw, go on. Ask him.

    1. Brian Morrison
      FAIL

      I somehow expect...

      ....that he'd come up with some weasel-worded get out for himself about this one.

      The whole thing is absolutely disgusting, I'd like to see the responsible officers dealt with very harshly especially in the cases where they managed to shame innocent people into committing suicide.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Unhappy

        I wonder if there's a manslaughter charge available

        in the cases where the pursued individual committed suicide.

        Corporate Manslaughter is supposed to cover cases where death wasn't intended by an organisation but was the outcome due to their action or inaction, so it doesn't seem like much of a stretch.

        To me that feels like a much shorter stretch than the incredibly slim evidence Operation Ore was originally based upon.

        Harassment charges are definitely applicable - though I think those have to apply to an individual, rather than a corporate entity - and good luck finding an individual to pin it on.

    2. Graham Marsden

      @Ally J

      Don't you know, he was Thinking Of The Children! That's all the reason he needs!!!

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  15. Graham Bartlett

    Only £20k?!

    I'm not a big fan of huge damages claims. Usually they're rubbish. But 8 years of this crap, trashed mental health, a whole bunch of no good for your family, and the loss of your business - come on! Loss of earnings alone is going to be more than that when his business went under.

    OTOH, if he's had decent advice then he'll screw them to hell and gone on costs. Costs isn't just your legal team, it's also the time you've spent on this. Document every second you spend on this kind of thing, multiply by the hourly rate in your dayjob, and present your bill.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Unhappy

      sorry

      *your* time is worth absolutely nothing. I know this from bitter experience both taking someone to court (successfully) and also being taken to court (and successfully defending myself).

      Telephone calls, taxi journeys, letters (stamps, paper, ink) are all costs, and can be recovered. But your time is "free". The only people whos time is worth anything are - wait for it - lawyers and barristers.

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      2. Anonymous Coward
        Big Brother

        Price of Justice

        Not only is your time free, as a citizen it costs you 20% more to get justice than it does for a corporate body.

        This is because the solicitor's service are VAT'd, and companies and public bodies can usually get the VAT back.

        Would also note the morality of taxing access to justice.

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  17. BobDowling
    Unhappy

    Massive bill?

    The massive bill goes to the lawyers. Mr Clifford gets £20K for a shattered life.

    The Police's own forensic expert said that there was no evidence worth pursuing. If that was not brought to the notice of the defence then the police should be facing criminal charges for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

    The police will not change a single thing because of this.

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  18. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    Am I ever glad about the decision

    I've always said that cached thumbnails were a potential danger to anyone browsing the Internet or using a web-based mail client. I hope that this will set precedent.

    I agree that the victim has been awarded a pitiful settlement, and I would be very interested in finding out in 6 months time what a CRB check shows for him. I think that if I were his lawyer, I would go for interim damages pending their clients reputation being restored. If this appears in an adverse way on his record at some time in the future, then they would be able to go for lifetime damages that should be enough to support this person for the rest of their natural life.

    And it would be even better if the claim would have to be contributed to by all of the members of the prosecution rather than the tax payers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Flame

      CRB checks

      can never be undone - they're like credit checks. The best you can hope for is an addendum stating the conviction was overturned.

      Luckily there is no case in history where anybody has ignored the addendum saying "no smoke without fire". Otherwise there would be scope for a massive injustice.

      Also, under the ISA framework, "soft" intelligence is enough.

      1. The Good Wife

        CRB Checks

        Charges dropped against Jeremy Clifford before criminal trial could start in April 2005 once his forensic expert put his report forward, so no conviction.

    2. Keith T

      Set your browsers to clear the cache on exit

      Set your browsers to clear the cache on exit

      1. paulc

        clearing cache?

        not good enough... images deleted remain accessible to those with the skill and knowledge... the only way to be reasonable safe is to browse with loads of ram and your cache in a RAM drive.. anyway, every image you ever pull down is accessible via your ISP's records of every thing you're browser has ever requested... why do you think they want ISPs to keep records then? To cope with people using encryption on their discs

        so start browsing using https and insist of websites supporting https...

  19. Ad Fundum
    FAIL

    Roll 1d20 to see if the defendant is guilty ...

    With a -10 modifier for non-whites, the unemployed, single mums, young people, and basically anyone who isn't friends with a senior copper.

    What a fucking joke. You'd have more chance of a fair trial if you were a gay man in Uganda.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Happy

      @Ad Fundum

      "What a fucking joke. You'd have more chance of a fair trial if you were a gay man in Uganda."

      But only if you *get* to the court house first.

  20. Richard Cain 1

    Police Targets

    Simply cast your mind back to 8 years ago when the plod were being ordered by NuLab to solve crime and prove it by supplying stats. The Chief Plods all made maximum bonus by hitting targets. The problem now is that despite the Home Office scrapping the targets, the Chief Plods persist in keeping them under new names as it maintains the status quo.

  21. Anon the mouse

    "lessons will be learned".... but not by us

    I must've met over 50 police officers due to being the victim of violence and there are 2 that I would trust to be honest and enforce the law. The rest see things like this as a challenge to overcome.

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  23. Anonymous Coward
    Grenade

    Surcharge the bastards

    1. Prosecute the scroat of a DC who started this malicious prosecution

    2. When that is successful (shouldn't be too difficult), sue him for every penny he has

    3. Surcharge all the line managers of this investigation so that the taxpayer doesn't have to bear the cost.

    4. Tax the CPS barristers and solicitors for the court costs

    That'll learn 'em.

  24. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge
    FAIL

    Publicity

    Presumably the main media outlets will now be covering this story with the same lurid headlines and prominence as the original one.

    I look forward to reading their headlines and the four page spreads about this acquittal.

    Will we get to see the police officer concerned being led away under a blanket, as outraged locals bang on the sides of the van speeding him away.

    No doubt the BBC are flying thirty correspondents to the scene as we speak, and the road outside his house is filling with satellite trucks.

    I could be wrong, of course.

  25. Graham Marsden
    Unhappy

    @Publicity....

    ... yes, I can just see the News of the Screws putting out the headline "Man falsely accused of Child Porn acquitted" followed by "Derisory amount of compensation paid"...

    In other news: Moon Found to be Made of Cheese, Jim Gamble Apologises to Innocent Victim of His Actions, How to Nail Jelly to the Ceiling...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: @Publicity

      >How to Nail Jelly to the Ceiling.

      The trick is to freeze the jelly around a flat headed nail then hammer it in gently.

      The other things are frivolous, as I suspect you know.

  26. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Flame

    Hertfordshire County Council tax payers might like to make their feelings known.

    A few questions to the chair of the Police Committee or whatever body oversees the actions of the local police.

    1)Where did they obtain this "Legal advice" that said they had a good chance of winning when their *own* forensics person reckoned it was BS.

    2) Will the Constabulary seek to recover some of that cash from the worthless DC who started this?

    3)How much of taxpayers money has the Constabulary, sorry Police "Service" p**sed up against the wall on this.

    Note this *could* have been terminated at nearly *any* point by the Police once they *knew* they were going to loose.

    Little fuss. Little publicity.

    But no,

    The chief con-stable (tell me this sort of decision *cannot* be made at *any* more junior level) decided "F**k it, we're the Police. They *have* to believe us." (Besides it's not *my* money I'm wasting).

    I rubbish DC gone. *Plenty* more to go I think.

  27. John F***ing Stepp

    I begin to see a disturbance in the force. . .

    Wait, what have you done with the Nanni-Staters, come on let them out of the closet right now before they suffocate.

    I have to show this to a friend who thinks the police are evil where I live; no, this is evil, ours are just pathetic.

  28. rob_m

    Damages and costs

    I havent seen the file, but I wonder what the costs comprise of? It sounds like he had a business that failed. This alone, I would have thought, would be a reasonable amount of money. Certainly more than 20k. Maybe this was incorporated into the costs, I dont know.

    But my feel is that this was an absolutely disgraceful approach taken by the authorities, both in initiation, and subsequent bloody-mindedness.

    There should, without question, be fallout on the authorities side. Prison sentences should be brought against these people IF it can be proven that their actions were malicious. I can certainly understand people making mistakes. We're human, and it happens. But if it was malicious, then I'd have no hesitation in sending these people to jail.

    1. Keith T

      Costs in that sense mean legal costs

      *Unless I'm mistaken*, "costs" in that sense mean the costs of bringing the legal case (lawyers, expert witnesses and court fees), not financial damages.

      The 20k is for his damages.

  29. Keith T

    Would have been hopeless in Canada

    Sadly if this had happened in Canada the courts would have offered no solution and no recourse. The definition of malicious prosecution is virtually impossible to prove, and misfeasance in public office is a protected activity (for government employees including police, only malfeasance creates liability).

  30. Justin 6
    FAIL

    Damages

    lmao 20k....try moving that decimal point three places to the right.

    I'm just pissed that taxpayers will pay for this. It should come straight out of the salaries of those involved, the people who hired them and the people who hired them. Like all corruption and incompetency the buck usually stops at a politician....

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  32. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Flame

    Note that the bulk of the money will be the *costs* as in legal fees.

    £20k of Hertfordshire tax payers money is the *minor* part. The legal bill will be in the 100s of £k, IE 10-20x that amount.

    All because a useless DC decided to play CYA.

    And an equally useless Chief Constable *agreed* with him.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Supervisors?

    Seems strange that a single (damaged?) ex detective constable is taking the fall for all of this. Where were his supervisors / senior officers when all this was going on? How was a junior police officer allowed to decide that he would ignore the advice of the forensics expert and continue to press charges? Whilst his behaviour was apparently reprehensible I smell a scapegoat situation..

  34. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    They are all bad

    It isnt just the weasel DC here, the whole thing is rotten.

    Sadly, the force will use the name of the DC as the sacrificial lamb so that all his co-workers (who will have agreed with his decisions) and his managers (who supported and approved his actions) will go unpunished.

    The force wont even mind about the fine as they get to up council tax next year to cover the costs.

    In all: if you want to truly destroy someone's life then be a Government worker. No one else has that level of power for so little responsibility or accountability. The best bit about being a copper is that if *anyone* ever questions your behaviour you can point to the minority drunken hooligans and scream about how they have no idea what you have to put up with, how you are a hero and that their opinion doesnt count here.....

    What makes it sadder is that this is also blamed on the crackpot Labour government we endured. Nothing has changed. Nothing will change. The colour on the ties of the ruling parties might be different but there is no way that the crux of the policies that lead to this will be watered down. There is no way the Police will feel more accountable now and certainly no way the Government will.

    Epic state fail really.

    (BTW - I am a tripple ex-Government employee having spent 6 years in the Army, 5 in the police and two in the civil service. I hate myself as much as everyone else does...)

  35. kain preacher

    Why

    I'm dead serious when I say why shouldn't the death penalty apply here. I know people in the UK tend not to like and think it's barbaric, but lives were destroyed in ways that can not be fixed,and this was done to further some ones career with a known lie. The damage done to those that were innocent was barbaric. Being falsely accused of being a pedophile is a life sentence, for some it was a death sentence.

  36. Tom 13

    Don't you mean Hits Taxpayers With Massive Bill?

    Not that the victim doesn't deserve the payment and then some, but really, the "police" won't pay anything.

  37. steward
    Go

    What if the police felt that they would lose their jobs, homes, etc.?

    Your side of the puddle needs something like United States Code Title 42, Section 1983:

    "Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia. "

  38. Liebour Hunter
    Big Brother

    ACPO

    Can someone please explain why we fund ACPO? IF I understand their aims they look after and promote the views of the top-cops as in Association of Chief Police Officers. Why should tax-payers fund their jaunts and drinking sessions?

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