Police had 'serious doubts' about child porn database evidence
Police had “serious doubts” about the quality of evidence that led to the conviction of thousands of men for looking at child pornography online, it is claimed.
10:30PM GMT 10 Nov 2010
An investigation into the Operation Ore database, broadcast on the eve of a landmark appeal, alleged that detectives suspected many of those prosecuted were innocent victims of credit card fraud.
Peter Johnston, a former computer crime officer for Merseyside Police, told ITV News that officers rounded up people whose details had been linked to internet child pornography despite doubts over their guilt.
He said: “There then came the calls of ‘let’s get out, let’s get them locked up, let’s get these people off the streets, you can’t have paedophiles wandering round the streets’. My view, and it’s purely my own view, is that yes there was a witch hunt.”
Operation Ore began after authorities in America prosecuted the owners of a website called Landslide Inc, which showed child abuse images, and found the details of thousands of credit card users.
The names of more than 7,000 Britons were found on the database and some were prosecuted even though raids found no indecent images on their computers.
Their lawyers argue that some were victims of a miscarriage of justice, as their credit card details had been stolen and used to buy child pornography.
ITV News says it has uncovered an email from one detective involved in the manhunt who wrote: “I have serious doubts about the quality and integrity of the evidence supplied by the National Crime Squad.
“I strongly advise to hold back on any further action until further notice.”
One man whose home was raided during the operation told the programme, broadcast on Wednesday night: “For a lot of people it has left them destroyed, ruined, bitter, twisted and finished their lives and their families. Broken their families up, broken their marriages up, finished their careers.”
It comes as the Court of Appeal hears a test case involving Anthony O’Shea, who was jailed for five months in 2005 after his details were found in Operation Ore, even though no images of paedophilia were found on his computer.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre said it could not comment on the allegations while the appeal was ongoing. It has previously denied that prosecutions were based solely on credit card evidence.