back to article Four jailed for million-pound abuse images ring

Four men have been sentenced today for their parts in running a news group service used for the distribution of child abuse images. The news service, Athenanews.com, earned the four men about £2.2m - police will be applying to the courts to seize that money. Ian Frost, 35, and his civil partner Paul Rowland, 34, of Martin …

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  1. NoneSuch Silver badge

    Just...

    ...drop them into general population of any Class A prison and they will not be around for long. Prisoners have kids too.

    1. Graham Marsden
      Childcatcher

      This is The Register...

      ... the Daily Mail forums are over there --->

  2. Kevin Gurney

    Sick

    These people should be made to take a long walk on a very short pier.

    It disgusts me that my taxes will be used to feed them while they're locked up.

    1. /\/\j17
      Stop

      Makes No Sense...

      "These people should be made to take a long walk on a very short pier."

      That makes no sense. If you take a long walk off a short pier you will fall off the end. It's only a short pier though, so they can just swim back to shore...

      "It disgusts me that my taxes will be used to feed them while they're locked up."

      Really? It's the fact that you have to pay taxes that disgusts you, not the harm done to the children?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On the face of it, good result...

    "protecting and safeguarding of 132 young people in Britain as a direct result of our work"

    Still don't know where they pull these kind of figures from.

    "Police seized raid arrays and servers - one so large that it dimmed the lights in the room were it was switched on for forensic examination."

    Really need to get a better power supply for the building then....

    Does anyone know if this was a usenet host (if so then dumb) or a forum provider? And how much of the content was CP. If mostly CP, then I am happy they are going after people who used the site and in effect paid for CP. As I do think that that incentivizes and financializes the creation of new CP and further abuse vs freely available CP.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Changed my mind....

      After looking around below and the links provided, it does look like it was a usenet service, like giganews or even the one I get chucked in from my ISP. This on the face of it then is dumb. And I am quite surprised that for a tech savy site how little people here, who are jumping up and down, seem to know about usenet and the way it works.

      If they were only providing access to news groups with pedo somewhere in the title and charging a premium over other usenet providers, then OK they deserve what they are getting.

      If they were providing access to all newsgroups uncensored, then to me it is the same as an ISP providing an internet service without the voluntary IWF blocking. Finding that ISP guilty of distribution of CP is then over the top. And also everything that is posted to Usenet is done so for free, so their is no financial incentive for more CP to be created. Which ever sicko's are posting the material, they are not doing it for profit, when they post it on usenet.

      And the final scenario, if they had blocked all newsgroups with pedo in the title, the same as every other usenet service out there, then this is way over the top. You cannot control and police when people unfortunately post CP material to groups that have noting to do with CP, like 'alt.binaries.pictures.cars' for example.

      The posters may not even be subscribers of their usenet service, If this comes as a surprise to you please read up on how usenet works before getting up in arms. Usenet is an old technology, which is not at all suited to policing apart from the obvious blocking of particular news groups. I bet even my ISP (one of the UK's largest) is hosting a large number of CP on their newsgroup service as we speak even though they have blocked groups with bad titles.

      If the third option is right I would not be surprised if ISP left right and center start pulling their usenet services. And the precedent means that next in the dock is rapidshare for CP distribution, as I am sure that at any one time there are thousands of items of CP they are housing. Of course out weighed by the millions of non CP things hosted, like usenet.

      In fact if they were running a service like every other provider out there, giganews etc, they should actually be getting pats on the back for setting up their service with so much logging. That logging has meant that they could trace who was uploading and downloading this material via their service (the real bad guy's) as this is normally pretty difficult with most usenet providers and the way usenet works. Just saying....

  4. Jon Lamb

    Just a usenet provider ?

    So was this a dedicated server for the purpose of distributing dodgy child images or just a usenet provider like easynews for example that doesnt filter their content that passes through them?

    I imagine any usenet provider is going to have some illegal images on their servers?

    More info please!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Incorrect

      You are correct that Easynews does not filter the newsgroups it carries. However they do not carry those groups that deal in images of child abuse. If a group is reported to them as carrying such images they will remove it.

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Robert Hill

    Trying to figure out...

    I'm trying to figure out - was this just a newsgroup hosting service, like Giganews, that happened to contain newsgroups that had child porn posted (not by them), or was this a website that specialized in child porn?

    If it's the latter, then throw the book at them, but there are chilling implications for free speech if it was the former...

    1. Kevin Gurney
      FAIL

      Free Speech ?

      Sorry but IMHO "free speech" doesn't apply to people who publish things like this. As far as I am concerned, sickos like these deserve no rights.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        RE: "people who publish things like this"

        Define publish.

    2. Dave Bell

      Newsgroups

      Going by Google, it seems to be newsgroup hosting, and carried a lot of newsgroups. Though one reference says the servers were in the USA.

      Defunct now, of course, but I can see a lot of people paying them for newsgroup access. It was a flat monthly fee for a Gigabyte per day, and so something more than half a million customer-months of fees that the Police want to get their hands on.

      With the Police saying 1,300 suspects, that 2.2 million quid would pay for downloading a gigabyte per day per suspect for around 35 years. I'm guessing a bit, but I reckon most of the downloading was dodgy, ordinary porn and illicit movies perhaps. There's something disturbing about the likelihood that the Police are going after the company's whole profit or income, as though it all came from child porn.

      Oh, and there may be a placename typo. No "Martin Dale" in Lincolnshire that I know of, but there is a "Martin Dales", on the opposite side of the River Witham to Woodhall Spa. Well south of Lincoln, so I'm not likely to have heard of the case, though there was a big farmer down that way who built his own railway for the potato harvest.

  7. JP19
    WTF?

    Am I reading The Register or the Sun?

    Since when is usenet a ring?

    At first sight they ran a small subscription usenet service.

    When you can get 6 months for possession of a dozen kiddy porn images 33 month sentences don't indicate they were any kind of peedyfile child abusing ringleaders. 2.2 million turnover in 7 years is less than an average banker's bonus FFS.

    Apart from not carrying a set of newsgroups rather arbitrarily selected by name does any usenet provider monitor and censor what they carry?

    If they carried any non-peered newsgroups containing kiddy porn then they might have a bit more to answer for.

    Maybe the Reg could do some investigative journalism instead of regurgitating crap about rings and light dimming servers.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Inb4 this thread turns into something that looks like Private Eye's "From the messageboards" column.

    Sadly it looks like I'm already a few posts too late.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We Need To Know More

    The Guardian has a couple of articles on this:-

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jun/13/paedophile-ring-smashed-lincolnshire

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/feedarticle/9693401

    El Reg reports:-

    "The news service ran between 2002 and 2009 and members paid according to how much content they wished to download."

    The first Guardian article reports:-

    "Officers first received intelligence from German police in November 2005 that Ian Frost was running a news service that had an association with indecent images of children."

    I'm wondering why it took over three years for the police to stop this "abuse images ring".

    The second Guardian article reports:-

    "Sentencing them at Nottingham Crown Court on Monday Mr Justice Calvert-Smith said the case was the first of its kind in England and Wales because it was prosecuting individuals for distribution through news servers.

    He said he believed that each defendant had knowledge of the fact that indecent images of children were available on the service but chose not to remove them for financial gain."

    I think we need to know more about this case.

    Protecting children from abuse is undoubtedly a good thing. But losing our rights and freedoms in the name of protecting children can also be dangerous. History has shown this many times.

    Is a lack of censorship itself now a potentially criminal matter? Where would that leave ISPs and other service providers and hosts? Is this a step towards service providers having to actively police content, lest they face criminal conviction as child sex offenders? Will Theresa May and the coalition expand this to include other illegal material, such as extremist material?

    1. Graham Marsden
      Childcatcher

      @We Need To Know More

      No we don't! They're obviously a bunch of kiddy fiddling paedos who should be locked up with Class A prisoners in order for lynch mob "justice" to be served, why should we bother ascertaining facts or asking questions when all we need to do is to throw away the key!

      (Note to certain commentards: The above post may contain irony or even sarcasm...)

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Graham Marsden

          @Tinto Tech

          How do you know I don't? Answer: You don't, you're just making assumptions like many others posting here. As the AC says in the post "We Need To Know More", not simply take as read that they're "evil paedos" etc etc.

          What I am defending which is the Justice System, the Right to Presumption of Innocence, the Right to a Fair Trial and, if convicted, the Right to only suffer the punishment prescribed by law (rather than being lynched or getting kicked about by prisoners or even prison guards) to mention just a few.

          If we start throwing away Rights because we have to Think of the Children we are on a very slippery slope.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

            1. Graham Marsden

              @Tinto Tech

              It is clear from your post that we agree on some things as I fundamentally believe that the most important thing about Rights is you *CANNOT* protect one person's rights by taking away someone else's and you *CANNOT* pick and choose who has rights and who doesn't.

              Unfortunately in your previous post you said "They were part of the industry and deserve all they get.....and some" which I disagree with and the post above titled "Some More Articles" suggests that they were not "part of the industry" (an "industry" which I consider to be mostly fictitious and a creation of the minds of empire builders like Jim Gamble) and that although you say these guys "have the same basic rights" you then appear to agree with the "give them a good kicking" Daily Mail brigade posting here.

              The link in the article above says that "The police investigation into AthenaNews.com found some of its customers had actually abused children" it doesn't say that those who ran the service had abused children, nor that they knew that they were "in possession" of illegal images or that (as the BBC article says) they knew that they were "circulating" the images to "45 countries". I'd think that what that actually means is that their news server had subscribers in 45 countries who downloaded these images which is *not* necessarily the same thing.

              The article also quotes DS Gibson who says "to operate a news service like this is not something a normal person could do, it needed a great deal of IT knowledge" which is IMO typical Police bollocks, it's not that difficult to set up a news service, mostly what you need is the money to run the thing, not mega IT skills.

              GIven the comment from the Judge of "It seems that never once did the defendants pause to reflect that they were contributing significantly to the international market and to the abuse of children, and even if that did not concern them they did not consider that they were at risk of criminal prosecution." perhaps the reason for this is that they were *NOT* deliberately contributing to some putative "international industry" and they were the unwitting victims of the actions of others, so they chose to plead guilty simply *for* leniency.

              As to you being "in the minority" regarding the sentences, that is why we have an independent judiciary who determine sentences based on the law. Having a sentence determined in this way is, of course, another Right.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Errrr.....

                "you *CANNOT* protect one person's rights by taking away someone else's"

                So you cannot take away the right to liberty of someone trying to stab someone in order to protect that's person's right to life?

        2. Old Handle
          Facepalm

          @Tinto Tech

          You have personal knowledge of the impact Ian Frost, Paul Rowland, Paul Frost, and Ian Sambridge had? By all means, please share. In case you hadn't noticed about half of the posts here are complaints about the lack of information. Some fist-hand info would be most welcome.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Alert

      Some More Articles

      This is Lincolnshire have four articles, dated 7th May 2011 (see links at the end of the first article for the other three):-

      http://www.thisislincolnshire.co.uk/Lincolnshire-suspect-arrested-aircraft/story-11201930-detail/story.html

      The first article is about some of the other investigations that this particular case led to. It seems there are genuinely good results, with good work being done to protect children and deal with actual abuse. I don't object to that.

      But that doesn't explain why those running a news service business have been convicted. It all sounds a bit like a variation of "shooting the messenger", where it's telecommunication service providers being held criminally liable for not policing and censoring the content they carried. I'm concerned about the implications for other service providers, and, in turn, society more generally.

      On the question of dates, the other three articles reveal that the first arrest was in 2006, and that they were able to continue running their news service business until 2009. This means the men running this "abuse images ring" knew, for something like three years, that they were being investigated by the police, while they kept running their news service business.

      This really doesn't add up, does it?

      So far - other than the guilty pleas - there doesn't seem to be anything to indicate that this was anything other than an uncensored news service that was being criminally abused by others.

      Could this be the case that some have been predicting and warning about for years?

      A BBC article might help answer that:-

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/mobile/uk-england-lincolnshire-13711329

      "Det Supt Paul Gibson, of Lincolnshire Police, said ... "I think the really important message to send is that the distribution of indecent images of children will not be tolerated and internet service providers who do this in the future, or anybody else, will receive a custodial sentence.""

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Alert

        Independent Article - Lack of Censorship Illegal?

        There's also an article on the Independent:-

        http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/international-paedophile-ring-leaders-jailed-2296921.html

        It includes the following bits:-

        "Det Supt Gibson said illegal news services, which are legal if censored, were "unique" because they operate like a virtual noticeboard containing folders of particular interest that can be shared around the world because linked news servers talk to one another and share information."

        ""I think the really important message to send is that the distribution of indecent images of children will not be tolerated and internet service providers who do this in the future, or anybody else, will receive a custodial sentence.""

        Certainly the distribution of indecent photographs and pseudo-photographs of children is illegal, but that doesn't make lack of censorship per se illegal. Det Supt Gibson is wrong to say that uncensored news services are illegal, if that actually is what he's saying. It certainly sounds like that's what he's implying.

        We should not allow such attempts to illegitimately expand specific laws against abusive images of children into more general laws against lack of censorship per se to stand unchallenged.

  10. Alt0n
    Facepalm

    @Kevin Gurney

    Let's not just rage indiscriminately here.... hosting a news server is not an act of publication.

    Unfortunately the Reg has only given us half a story :-(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Childcatcher

      In your humble opinion

      Rage all you like, it's just your opinion.

      Let's get one thing clear here. It is easy to configure a news server to NOT carry certain newsgroups. These guys knowingly chose to carry those clearly used predominantly to distribute images of child abuse and profited from doing so to the tune of £Millions.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Holmes

      Eh?

      How is it not an act of publication exactly, other than that you wish it not to be?

      In actual fact your point is totally irrelevant as the offence is 'distribution' NOT publication.

      Section 1 of the protection of children act 1978 (amended):

      1 Indecent photographs of children.

      (1)It is an offence for a person—

      (a)to take, or permit to be taken [F1or to make], any indecent photograph [F1or pseudo-photograph]of a child F2. . .; or

      (b)to distribute or show such indecent photographs [F3or pseudo-photographs]; or

      (c)to have in his possession such indecent photographs [F3or pseudo-photographs], with a view to their being distributed or shown by himself or others; or

      (d)to publish or cause to be published any advertisement likely to be understood as conveying that the advertiser distributes or shows such indecent photographs [F3or pseudo-photographs], or intends to do so.

      (2)For purposes of this Act, a person is to be regarded as distributing an indecent photograph [F4or pseudo-photograph]if he parts with possession of it to, or exposes or offers it for acquisition by, another person.

      (3)Proceedings for an offence under this Act shall not be instituted except by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

      (4)Where a person is charged with an offence under subsection (1)(b) or (c), it shall be a defence for him to prove—

      (a)that he had a legitimate reason for distributing or showing the photographs [F5or pseudo-photographs]or (as the case may be) having them in his possession; or

      (b)that he had not himself seen the photographs [F5or pseudo-photographs]and did not know, nor had any cause to suspect, them to be indecent.

      ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      The key points here are that:

      1) They DID distribute indecent photographs contrary to paragraph 1.1.b. Distribution being defined in 2) as 'exposes or offers for acquisition'.

      2) That they had cause to suspect the images to be indecent as per 4.b. The names of many of the groups carried were clear about the content of the groups. The prosecution will have had to prove this point to the satisfaction of the jury for a guilty verdict to have been passed.

      Hope that clears it up for you.

  11. Pat 11
    Alert

    why should usenet servers be exempt from possession?

    Seems like some posters here see Usenet servers' right to store *all* content as something worth protecting. Why exactly? It's not as if the big binaries servers are providing anything other than a convenient way to get warez/music/movies/porn. I have no issue with that, let the content industries go after them if they want to play whack a mole with piracy, but if they can serve child porn with no consequences, why protect that? Illegal and reviled everywhere, for sound reasons. If Usenet services were made accountable for carrying it, they would just have to police the content better. They are after all getting a bit of a free ride, the business model is monetized piracy...there are more worthy free speech conduits.

    1. Old Handle

      Completely exmept, No.

      I don't think anyone is in favor of giving news servers a special carte blanche to host absolutely anything. But it still makes people nervous when we see them aggressively prosecuted because of the potential chilling effect on legitimate services. It raises alot of questions we don't so far have answer for. Like what percent of traffic on this service was illegal? Did the owners ever get a warning, or was it just assumed why knew?

      I think the authorities should assume good faith on the part of any sort of general purpose content delivery service. If illegal content is found, then the correct course of action would be to alert them and give them a chance to correct the situation. If they don't correct it, or if the problem keeps coming back, then of course legal action might be necessary. Since we don't knew if that happened, I think I and the other posters you alluded to are right to be concerned.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Facepalm

        British Law

        Regarding your good faith remarks.

        There are two basic things that have to be proven in any criminal case in this country:

        1) Actus Reus. The 'guilty act' in this case the distribution of indecent images of children.

        2) Mens Rea. The 'guilty mind' in this case the prosecution would have to have proved, to the satisfaction of a jury of 11 peers, that the people behind this were fully aware of the Actus Reus and did not take reasonable steps to prevent it.

        Nobody expected them to view every posting and censor those which were illegal, but not holding groups like alt.binaries.pictures.pedophillia would have been regarded as reasonable.

        By sheer virtue of the fact that prosecutions of those accessing this indecent material have occurred it can be seen that the logging on this server recorded specific newsgroups accessed and possibly even messages downloaded. With that level of logging the prosecution will have been easily able to demonstrate the number of subscribers who used the service to access this material.

        The lack of your 'good faith' will have been proven.

        They were not a 'legitimate service', what is 'chilling' is your cavalier attitude to the welfare of children.

        It never ceases to amaze me how register readers automatically attack the prosecution of these cases. Free speech is a good thing, but when that free speech involves the perpetuation of the abuse of children by the distribution of their suffering I don't think it's unreasonable to curtail that 'speech'.

        For the record, before another regtard tries to deny anything other than naturist pictures exist, there are 5 level in the Sentencing Guidelines Council scale:

        1 Images depicting erotic posing with no sexual activity

        2 Non-penetrative sexual activity between children or solo masturbation by a child

        3 Non-penetrative sexual activity between adults and children

        4 Penetrative sexual activity involving a child or children, or both children and adults

        5 Sadism or penetration of or by an animal

        Images and videos at ALL these levels are regularly discovered on offender's computers and are distributed via newsgroups, P2P, bittorrent, IM, email, etc, etc, etc. We are also talking about children of ALL ages. Think about these points in relation to a child you know before you post another 'free speech above everything else' post!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Flame

          Regtard?

          Apart from the obvious trolling, the sign of a dearth of cogent argument is when a commenter resorts to adding "tard" to whatever group he is trying to belittle the opinion of.

          "Free speech is a good thing, but when that free speech involves the perpetuation of the abuse of children by the distribution of their suffering I don't think it's unreasonable to curtail that 'speech'."

          We all agree child abuse is wrong, and no one here is trying to perpetuate it. If I understand correctly, the people who disagree with you do so on the basis that there is no reasoned argument behind the removal of that free speech as you call it. Merely suggesting that the Actus Reus is child abuse is enough for a lot of people to take Mens Rea as read, and to not look any deeper at the basis on which the charge built.

          There are many unanswered questions, and the technically savvy readership, who are not retards (and that is your implication) are uneasy about some of the vague and woolly language used which seems to have been chosen to lead the non techinal majority to a conclusion that may be justified by the language used, but not necessarily by all of the facts.

          I'll repeat - no one here is defending child abusers, it is about the correct and fair application of the law.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Facepalm

            Wow!

            Feel better for getting that off your chest? Ok, let's clear up some points.

            1) Trolling? Responding to peoples comments is trolling? I made multliple posts as I was replying to multiple posts, I was keeping them in context. Or is it simply that you don't agree with my stance that makes it trolling?

            2) I used the term Regtard as an attempt at humour, in the same way Linux users are sometimes referred to as Freetards, I was trying to make a heavy conversation less heated. Sorry that was missed on you. My implication (did you mean insinuation?) was not that people were retards, that is your interpretation, what gives you the right to tell me what I was thinking?

            3) I know it suits your 'arguement' but I've reviewed my post and at no point did I say that the Actus Reus in this instance was actual child abuse.

  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Either *very* naive or *very* stupid.

    Naive. Did not think their servers *could* be hosting CP.

    Stupid. *Knew* they were but continued to host them in the UK.

    Depending on how well they have managed to secure their £2.2m cash. They *could* come out of jail and could (having paid their debt to society) start up a new service.

    Having demonstrated that their "Business model" has generated robust profits in a recession they might even be courted by various VC providers.

    Capitalism, eh? Got a love it.

  13. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Umm - one moment..

    Re. the "they were just hosting usenet": as far as I can tell from the reporting, they were charging serious money for access. This implies there was something of value on those systems which in turn implies knowledge of the content. Otherwise I'm interested to hear how they could collect £2.2M for running a bit of usenet.

    Happy to support free speech, but to me this doesn't look like an "innocent mistake"...

  14. Graham Bartlett

    @We Need To Know More

    "Is a lack of censorship itself now a potentially criminal matter?"

    Yes, and has been for some time. The decision to do nothing is a decision to allow these files to exist, and to provide a means of distribution. Regardless of the fact that you're not making these pictures/films, you're knowingly providing a way of distributing them.

    Someone soon is going to ask why Royal Mail doesn't get done for distributing dodgy stuff. The simple answer is that if Royal Mail was distributing transparent envelopes containing clearly-dodgy photos, dope or anything else illegal, then they definitely *would* be in some difficulties.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Well Said

      At last! The voice of reason in a sea of regtards!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Go

      Just an excersize in idle brainfarting ...

      I wonder where RM stands if it handles packages which are transparent but have opaque flaps on them which have to be deliberately moved to see inside. Do they have a legal obligation to look, or a professional responsibility not to?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    @Fred Flintstone

    The real issue with Usenet servers has always been that it is impossible to manage several hundred thousand Newsgroups. It certainly cannot be cost effectively to look at millions of images contained in that many forums. This is why most of them are out of business now.

    If someone publishes kiddie porn to a newsgroup server, the poster should be the one who is handed over to the police. The news server operator should be provided with a takedown notice and only arrested if they refuse to take down the offending newsgroup.

    As far as "charging for access" all newsgroup providers have a fee of some kind as there is no way to monetize the services they provide.

    However, if they charge "special fees" for "certain clients" and the plod gets wind of that, then the service provider should be completely liable.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Angel

    God Bless Those CEOP Heroes

    "Operation Alpine began after a tip-off from German police received via CEOP."

    So CEOP's role in this operation was ... receptionist.

  17. exexpat

    its late/early but theres more info on this story here

    http://www.thisislincolnshire.co.uk/Online-business-venture-meant-child-porn-site/story-12753211-detail/story.html

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Thanks

      Thanks, exexpat. That's a most interesting and informative article. We seem to be learning a lot more from This is Lincolnshire than from elsewhere.

      One thing I note is this:-

      "The court heard Rowland received the additional charges after police discovered posts on an online forum where he talked about "struggling for years" with his feelings towards young boys.

      Speaking for Rowland, Nigel Godsmark QC said: "Paul Rowland has a problem and he knows he has a problem. He knows it is wrong and he is frightened of why this is.

      "In relation to the business, there is no creation of images, no posting of images.""

      If this is what it sounds like, then the additional charges were brought not because he'd actually committed those additional offences, but because he's a paedophile.

  18. Suburban Inmate
    Boffin

    Clearly not *that* technical

    Leaving aside collecting evidence using outside access as a "subscriber", there's plenty of ways to make these servers dismount a trucrypt or whatever partition upon unauthorised access to the building.

    RIPA allows 3 years bird for not handing over a decryption key. Whether that could be provable with the "hidden partition" (i.e. a second key to unlock data in the unused areas of the first partition) thingy I'm not sure.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Holmes

      Longer than that

      It's 5 years for indecent images.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Freedom of the press

    I read this article with some concerns. From the reporting on the news the impression given was clearly that the four men involved had a sexual interest in children, and were actively trading illegal images themselves.

    To now hear that this was merely a small part of an otherwise legal business venture does not diminish the effect of the activity, but certainly damages my faith in British reporting accuracy. Just more scandal mongering and sensationalism.

    "132 children protected"...probably based on the "offenders included teachers and youth workers" statement - but other than the internet offences, no actual suspicion that these people had committed any crime with children in their care. More sensationalism.

    The media have identified that it is "okay to hate", and so normal rules don't apply. The only time you see extracts from police interviews? Pedophiles. The only time people sanction brutal and violent murder? Pedophiles. (Newsflash, we don't have a death penalty any more, for good reason...look up "Stefan Kiszko" before you rail that we should have). One man in the Northeast WAS actually murdered a few years back, despite the courts acquitting him. No one has ever been arrested for the crime. So we're worried about pedophiles wandering free, but we don't mind the odd murderer being on the loose who thinks they know better than our justice system.

    I have a technical question too...if all Usenet servers block access to the offensive groups, how do people get access to them to upload the content that others then download?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      In answer to your last question...

      ...it depends on how the server is set up and the same situation on the servers it peers with.

      Suppose that these people operated a server that did not use the IWF list of groups that cannot be carried legally in the UK, as a small ISP that is quite likely. Then people would be able to post articles to any group they chose covered within the probably quite broad globbed group names the server would carry/fetch. Similarly others would be able to access the server and read those articles.

      Now add in some peering hosts in other places/countries, also not using the IWF or other block list and you have peered servers sending articles in these groups between themselves.

      It looks to me as if the people running the service deliberately took no action after being notified of the type of content found on their servers, so they are probably being done on that basis rather than because they had read the articles themselves and kept copies of the content on their own machines. Stupid really, because once they were aware of what was alleged they should have simply closed the groups concerned and continued to run the business as a normal Usenet hosting service.

      The law is a blunt instrument, it doesn't see the provision of a service which contains illegal material that the operators do not monitor as any different to the provision of the illegal material itself, although from the sentences handed out it's clear that they are not being treated in the way they would have been if they were responsible for consuming or creating the material in question. If that were the case the sentences would be much longer I feel.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Small ISP?

        Why is a small ISP more likely to not use the IWF illegal list?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Well, possibly because...

          ...of the law of diminishing returns, if the biggest ISPs do then 95%+ of consumers are covered by it. The political pressure to encourage the last 5% to be covered is then much reduced.

          It could also be because the operators of these smaller ISPs don't trust the IWF not to block non-infringing stuff, after all they won't tell you what they block and there is no way of checking. Some people don't believe in censorship because it is always used to the benefit of the powerful.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            IWF blocklist does not work woth usenet

            The IWF blocklist is normally setup by ISP's as a webproxy and therefore only blocks web (port 80) traffic. Usenet uses a completely different not http setup (normally port 113 or ssl if available) so is immune to IWF blocking, the same as P2P and VPN traffic.

            There is no block list for usenet apart from admin's not replicating groups with pedo in the title. And since people on usenet can post whatever they want to which ever group they want the above group disabling will only stop so much material getting through. A post put on your local usenet server in tim buck too is replicated to all usenet servers world wide. And user names are optional so you cannot block a certain user. This is the beauty of usenet that it is very hard to suppress communication with it, but that means it is a double edged sword. Really am surprised it was not used more during certain revolutions recently, as it is very low bandwidth so would work well over an international modem connection when your local country has turned of local internet access.

            Still shocked by the lack of knowledge of how usenet works here.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2 million quid

    Having railed about inaccurate reporting, kudos to the BBC;

    "We found out they had been running a news service for seven years and had been using it to distribute indecent images to 45 countries, earning themselves about £2m"

    Accurate reporting at last! "Earning" implies turnover, so no allowance for running costs. £2m over 7 years, so that's about £300K a year or £25K a month. I read on another website they charged about £6 a month to users, so had about 4000 subscribers. Those figures don't make me think that their business was more or less profitable than any other Usenet venture, regardless of whether or not they were actively promoting the availability of illegal groups.

    I'd echo someone else's comment though, about use of the word "distribute". The way Usenet works the content is entirely uploaded and downloaded by users. If someone throws drugs in a bin, and someone else collects them, would you sue the council who owns the bin for distributing drugs?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Flame

      Not the same

      As previously stated usenet servers can be configured not to carry those groups with names clearly indicating their content is indecent, in fact most do.

      Your analogy would be more accurate if someone put drugs in a bin marked 'illegal drugs' and someone else comes along and collects the bin clearly marked illegal drugs.

      Google 'Mens Rea' as mentioned above, the council bin operative did not have the guilty knowledge in your example!

      It is all about the whether there is a reasonable expectation that a normal person would realise alt.binaries.pictures.erotica.children (and similar) contained indecent images and whether it is reasonable for them to continue serving this group to subscribers.

      In fact, looking at the front page for AthenaNews they actually make a point of advertising that they carried ALL newsgroups - "Access all newsgroups uncensored".

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Paul Frost

    Bloody hell, I went to school with Paul Frost. IIRC he showed no interest in computers whatsoever.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wouldn't it also be an offence to report child pornography

    You could report it to the police but then they would have to charge you for posession ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Facepalm

      Read the legislation/ Caselaw

      I can't remember the actual phrase but there is something about 'retained longer than reasonable' that allows for someone to discover IIoC and not be prosecuted if they take reasonable steps once it is identified.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Unhappy

      As crazy as it sounds, (almost) yes

      One guy in Hungary reported to the police that he found such a site on the web. The police seized all his equipment for "evidence", and later nailed him for copyright infringement because of the programs he had on his hard drive. We're just one step away, really...

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's just see

    I run a shop. You know, just an ordinary shop, nothing dodgy here guv.

    Some guys come around now and then and drop off boxes of stuff in my back room. I don't bother checking what's on there 'cos it's none of my business. They gave me a sign to put in the shop window. It goes something like "Get your stuff here".

    I thought about charging them to store their stuff, but I make shed loads of cash by charging everyone a fiver to enter the shop. You know, trade is really brisk since those boxes arrived back there.

    Oh look, a visit from the boys in blue. "Yes officer how can I help?", "No officer, I have no idea what's back there!", "Hey wait a minute, why are you putting the cuffs on me"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Childcatcher

      You get my vote for sanest person commenting here tonight!

      An excellent analogy, unfortunately one which may be lost on the other posters.

      1. Robert Hill
        FAIL

        You don't know...

        if that is the sanest comment, then by all means you join the ranks of the Newgroup Epic Fail brigade on this thread.

        LOTS of porn (both copyrighted and amateur/legal), music (same), photographs, etc are posted on the newsgroups. Everyone that uses the newsgroups that is not in college knows that it costs money to store that many bits, so most newsgroup users pay for access - and there are some big firms doing it for real money.

        Now, although the newsgroups have names, that does not prevent posters from posting darned near anything they want in a newsgroup - there is rarely any moderation of the vast majority. So, a newsgroup named alt.support.stop-smoking can have kiddie porn posted to it. And the paedos know this, and so this stuff crops up in "decent" newsgroups all the time (I've been on usenet for a long time). Often it is mislabeled too, so lonely guys just wanting free, legal porn end up downloading it - and if they are smart erasing it posthaste.

        Which shows the problem if you run a hosting service. You can filter out all the newsgroups that are obviously illegal, ones containing "paedo", "torture", "bestiality", etc. in their names. But the non-offensive groups get spammed with it too, and it is often not named as such, and sometimes is is in password protected RARs or ZIPs.

        I am not commenting on this specific case, or if these guys were paedos themselves or not. I am just pointing out after many years on usenet that censorship is impossible, even if you try really, really hard. Too much material, some encrypted for private distribution, and much mislabeled and posted in the wrong newsgroup.

        What is important in this case is that it does NOT become open season on ISPs and content distributors...because that will effectively cede control of the internet to governments for good. Both good and bad governments...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Holmes

          I was!

          I was commenting on this specific case, so I don't see how you generalisations are relevant.

          Just because material can be located outside those groups clearly labelled as containing them does not mean you shouldn't bother removing those groups!!!

          It is also NOT impossible to screen the majority of indecent images on newsgroups, there are various automated systems created over the years that could do this (using either signatures or some type of image content recognition), most didn't receive commercial success because the ISPs chose not to buy them! Profit first.

          1. Robert Hill
            FAIL

            Still a fail...

            You can comment on this specific case, but frankly the news reports have not been specific enough to actually know which newsgroups they were hosting, so specific conclusions will be flawed at best. That's why I chose not to comment specifically - insufficient public information. If you work for the plod and you have a list, then by all means share it...

            And NO, the automated solutions cannot adequately distinguish between a flat chested 18 year old and a 16 year old - hell, it's darned hard for humans. That is why Australia proposed a ban on flat-chested women in general in porn, which was widely derided. Add in the difficulty in actually recognizing things like cartoon porn from Japan, or porn where the face is hidden...etc. It just doesn't work.

            Then we get into the volume issue. According to my newsreader, there are 111,000+ newsgroups currently available. Each of these can have hundreds of posts (sometimes more) per day. Now, I know that merely uploading and processing a file on a public picture share service (Flickr or SmugMug) takes several minutes while it processes, per picture. And that is on a server farm dedicated to it. To do automatic recognition would probably take longer (and still likely fail). And then their is the requirement to actually decode video and then look at sampled frames, right? So...let's look at the volumes involved, and it is quite apparent that it would take a HUGE cluster to even hope to match the volume of usenet binary posts. We are talking a several million dollar system, for a business that only made, what, £2MM in seven years?

            If you know of such a system that could work, then please post a link, or at least respond with the name.

            Kiddie porn is terrible, and the people that do it, purchase it, and distribute it knowingly should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But saying that we want to totally censor all online media because an incredibly small fraction of it might be put to use in illegal ways is like saying we should force all drivers to take blood alcohol tests EVERY time they get behind the wheel, because an appreciable portion of them (larger than paedos on the internet!) have driven drunk.

            There used to be such a thing as civil rights in the Western countries. Now, the cries of "terrorist!" and "think of the children!" have decimated them... IMHO.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Holmes

    Barrack Room Lawyers

    Why do so many register readers think the internet is exempt from the laws applicable to the non-digital world?

    I also question how many of the barrack-room lawyers here have any experience what so ever of a criminal trial and the associated burden of proof? From the comments I would suspect very few!

    There also seems to be some misconception that the Police make these cases up for giggles and simply walze into a court room, spout a lot of unsupported fiction and the Judge convicts people. There is a whole system there, one which is stacked in favour of the defence, that includes defence lawyers, a judge, and a Jury.

    Actually go and sit in a court on one of these cases, listen to what goes on, see how every little point has to be evidenced in the face of challenges and arguments. It is NOT how many of you seem to think it happens!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "stacked in favour of the defence?"

      I didn't know, so I went looking;

      http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/ascii/fpcseo06.txt

      And if you don't want to follow the link;

      "During 2006, 3,661 suspects were referred to U.S. attorneys for child sex exploitation offenses. Child pornography constituted 69% of referrals, followed by sex abuse (16%) and sex transportation (14%). Almost 6 in 10 child sex crime suspects were prosecuted in 2006, up from 4 in 10 in 1994. Nine of 10 defendants were convicted and sentenced to prison, up from 8 in 10 in 1994. The median prison sentence imposed increased from 36 months to 63 months over this period. Most suspects charged with sex exploitation were white, male, U.S. citizens, and had attended some college."

      Admittedly this is the US, but their legal system is similar to ours. (If anyone can provide similar statistics foe the UK, that would be great). If the system is "stacked in favour of the defence"...how come nine out of ten defendants are convicted?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not relevant

        As you said, it's the US, and no their legal system is not the similar to ours. Yes they have juries but their entire legislation is completely different from 'just cause' onwards!

        Also you are confusing 'stacked in the favour of the defence' with 'most of them get off'. All I meant was that the prosecution have to work harder to prove a point than the defence do to undermine it or get it struck out.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Eh?

          This one I have to admit I don't understand. The prosecution have to work harder than the defence, but still 9 out of ten time the prosecution win? Does that mean that the defence are just not bothering at all?

          Sorry but "stacked in favour of the defence" SHOULD lead to a situation where a majority of them "get off". The figures don't show that, so the hypothesis doesn't work.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prevention is better than cure.

    "(1)It is an offence for a person—

    (a)to take, or permit to be taken [or to make], any indecent photograph [F1or pseudo-photograph]of a child F2. . ."

    It's the loose interpretation that gives me the problem. Did you know that "to make" includes saving a file on your hard disk? Most of the general public don't realise the difference and assume that to make means you took real live pictures of real live children (more sensationalism). Since most browsers store pictures in a cache, and since you are the user logged in at the time, it's also often interpreted that simply by viewing an abusive image (even accidentally), you are guilty of "making" the image on your hard drive as well.

    Since you're knowledgeable about the law...(and I'm not being sarcastic when I say that) does the law on distribution of drugs ALSO state that distribution occurs if someone "exposes it...for acquisition by another person"?

    My point is that the language used is re-interpreted more so than for other offences, which again leads to more sensationalism. Mr REAL point is that this is counterproductive. If the goal is to prevent this type of behaviour, then demonising those who carry it out does not help. We want people who behave this way to realise they have a problem and come forward to get help. Threatening them with violent death does not encourage that. Selective reporting that exaggerates the nature of the offence and portrays the perpetrators as "evil" rather than "sick" does not encourage that.

    There is nothing that I know of that can prevent pedophiles being born (and maybe they are not born, but formed by their childhood experiences, but either way it is beyond our ability to control) so the best thing we can do is to PREVENT them offending. Every time someone says they want to kill a pedophile, it is punishment not prevention. It does NOTHING to prevent the sexual behaviour of others (hundreds of years of society punishing homosexuals should at least teach us that).

    So, if you're happy to have "kill all pedos" as your single response to this, here's the equation. For every pedophile you kill, at least one child has to be abused. Currently, that's the only way you find out that they are pedophiles, because they have ALREADY done something. Are you happy with that?

    Anyways...

    To follow through my "bin" analogy. However you said the council operative took the bin away...I was talking about a third party. Yes in this case it has been proved to a jury of peers that the bin was clearly labelled "drugs", that the council were aware it was labelled "drugs" and did not act to take the bin away or otherwise prevent the bin from being used for drugs.

    However, there are lots of bins. Not all of them are labelled drugs, but still some get used for them. What are the council supposed to do? Stop providing bins altogether?

    And lastly I have seen MANY Usenet services making the claim that they carry ALL groups. it doesn't mean they do, and people are very unlikely to complain that groups like alt.sex.pedophilia.pictures turn out not to be present when they sign up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Holmes

      Thanks for the lesson

      "It's the loose interpretation that gives me the problem. Did you know that "to make" includes saving a file on your hard disk?"

      Yes I did thanks, and that is making. You are not receiving the original copy, that remains where it is and a second copy is MADE on your hard disk drive. See how that works? If you create a new thing it's called 'making something'.

      "Since most browsers store pictures in a cache, and since you are the user logged in at the time, it's also often interpreted that simply by viewing an abusive image (even accidentally), you are guilty of "making" the image on your hard drive as well."

      Nope. This is possession, not making unless it can be proven that the person had sufficient technical knowledge that they would reasonably be expected to know that the computer was making copies as they viewed or it was proven that they had directly accessed the cache.

      "Since you're knowledgeable about the law...(and I'm not being sarcastic when I say that) does the law on distribution of drugs ALSO state that distribution occurs if someone "exposes it...for acquisition by another person"?"

      No idea, don't do many drugs cases. But here is the relevant passage for you. Doesn't use those exact words but it's the same gist:

      ____________________________________________________________________

      A Prohibition of supply etc. of articles for administering or preparing controlled drugs.

      (1)A person who supplies or offers to supply any article which may be used or adapted to be used (whether by itself or in combination with another article or other articles) in the administration by any person of a controlled drug to himself or another, believing that the article (or the article as adapted) is to be so used in circumstances where the administration is unlawful, is guilty of an offence.

      (2)It is not an offence under subsection (1) above to supply or offer to supply a hypodermic syringe, or any part of one.

      (3)A person who supplies or offers to supply any article which may be used to prepare a controlled drug for administration by any person to himself or another believing that the article is to be so used in circumstances where the administration is unlawful is guilty of an offence.

      (4)For the purposes of this section, any administration of a controlled drug is unlawful except—

      (a)the administration by any person of a controlled drug to another in circumstances where the administration of the drug is not unlawful under section 4(1) of this Act, or

      (b)the administration by any person of a controlled drug to himself in circumstances where having the controlled drug in his possession is not unlawful under section 5(1) of this Act.

      (5)In this section, references to administration by any person of a controlled drug to himself include a reference to his administering it to himself with the assistance of another]

      _______________________________________________________________________

      "So, if you're happy to have "kill all pedos" as your single response to this, here's the equation. For every pedophile you kill, at least one child has to be abused. Currently, that's the only way you find out that they are pedophiles, because they have ALREADY done something. Are you happy with that?"

      Whoah there!!!!!! At which point did I say kill all paedos? (note the spelling)? All my responses have been lengthy, reasoned and supported with sections of legislation. I know you are desperate to prove your point, but please let's not descend into this sort of thing!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not made up, just selectively reported...

    "There also seems to be some misconception that the Police make these cases up for giggles and simply walze into a court room, spout a lot of unsupported fiction and the Judge convicts people."

    Not exactly. However, the selective reporting thing does again make the "bust" out to be far grander than it is.

    These guys didn't "make" pictures in the sense as understood by the general public (i.e. they did not take picture or videos of real live children being abused). However by the letter of the law, they "made" images.

    So no, I don't think the police "waltz into court", but the people they have arrested here are in my opinion third degree offenders. First degree offenders would be people who actually record the abuse. Second degree offenders are those that actively seek out images of abuse.

    And why? I'm sorry to say, but it's because it's easy and makes good headlines (especially when somewhat spurious claims of "132 children have been protected" are included). Finding the real source of the images is much harder, and that's partly because (as one poster has already commented) there is no "industry" behind it. Most abusers are male relatives, abusing their own children in their own home with cameras they bought in a high street shop. The image of some sort of shady kiddy porn baron is frankly laughable - seriously, if they existed, how long do you think they would last?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Holmes

      Yup (mostly)

      The selective reporting is an issue, and you are correct the images did not originate from them, they still had a case to answer for providing the service in the first place.

      The stats don't actually relate to the source of the images being found. All the stats on the protected children means is that as a result of the further investigations of the clients downloading indecent material, there were 132 children identified who had been subject to abuse this doesn't mean that they had been photographed and uploaded.

      Selective reporting is an issue here, as these could easily have been from further enquiries into the contacts of the subscribers and not actually by the subscribers themselves.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Holmes

    Another thought...

    "So, if you're happy to have "kill all pedos" as your single response to this, here's the equation. For every pedophile you kill, at least one child has to be abused. Currently, that's the only way you find out that they are pedophiles, because they have ALREADY done something. Are you happy with that?"

    Are you actually suggesting that killing a paedophile for offending causes the original offence, some sort of time paralax of Doctor Who proportions?

    I'm not pro killing anyone.

    Let's take your latest well thought out scenario:

    Mr Paedophile abuses a child.

    He isn't killed.

    The child is still abused aren't they?

    Mr Paedophile is free to abuse more children or continue abusing the same child.

    Lets try a twist on your scenario (as it was you who raised the whole killing thing in the first place):

    Mr Paedophile abuses a child.

    He is killed.

    The child is still abused aren't they?

    Mr Paedophile cannot continue offending against either the original victim or subsequent ones.

    Let's run with a more sane scenario:

    Mr Paedophile abuses a child.

    He isn't killed BUT is put in jail then closely monitored upon his release.

    The child is still abused aren't they?

    Mr Paedophile cannot continue offending against either the original victim or subsequent ones whilst in prison and is significantly less likely to offend once released.

    I like the last scenario, no one has to die and children are protected.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missed a scenario...

    Firstly - the 132 children. I haven't seen any claims that these children were even being abused. Given how sensationalist the reporting is in all other areas, I am sure if abuse HAD actually occurred, it would have been made much clearer. My impression is that some of the subscribers had access to these children, and so they were "potential" victims. Protected from abuse sometime in the future that maybe, possibly, if the wind was blowing the right way, MIGHT have happened.

    Onto "kill all pedos". Firstly, don't take everything as though I'm talking personally to you. There are other people in here who have advocated exactly that.

    And since we're into scenarios, you're kind of missing my point. Yes, in all the scenarios you gave;

    "The child is still abused aren't they?"

    Yes, absolutely. But you missed a scenario.

    Mr (gender bias noted) Paedophile realises he is attracted to children. He is also aware that if he comes forward he can get help from an understanding and supportive society (though in no way condoning any actual activity).

    No child gets abused.

    This is where we should be, and where organisations like the NSPCC (Child abuse must stop, FULL STOP) claim they would like to be. Again, my derision is not aimed at you, but others who think that the "kill all pedos" approach is some kind of cure-all.

    For the record, I don't support the death penalty for ANYthing. Our justice system is not infallible, and going to someone's relatives with a "We are so sorry we executed the wrong person" doesn't really cut it for me.

    Reading back, I actually think we kind of agree on more than the back and forth would initially indicate...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Facepalm

      Extremely Naive

      Firstly I used the male gender as 99.9% of paedophiles are male.

      I didn't miss a scenario, I just didn't include this latest one because to even consider it requires a level of nievity reserved for those who believe in the tooth fairy.

      A sexual attraction to children is a drive, a deep rooted desire, suggesting that if people weren't reviled by paedophiles that they would all simply put there hands up and ask for help is ludicrous and shows exactly how little you really know about this subject. Making being a paedophile (non active) socially acceptable is a fast track to more abuse happening not less. Already in many cases there are adults who at least have suspicion and who by saying nothing allow the abuse to continue.

      It's a beautiful and idealistic world you live in, I wish it was real!

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