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Men jailed for running international paedophile ring that distributed indecent images to 46 countries
Four men jailed for running international paedophile ring that distributed indecent images to 46 countries
Case is first of its kind in England and Wales.
Resulted in 132 children in UK being protected.
Number of paedophiles taken out of positions of trust including teachers, doctors and police officers.
Four men were jailed today after they admitted running an international paedophile ring that distributed millions of indecent images and films of children to over 40 countries around the world.
Ian Frost, 35, and his 34-year-old partner Paul Rowland, both of Lincolnshire, were jailed for 33 months.
Paul Frost, 37, of Sheffield, received a 15-month sentence and Ian Sambridge, 32, of St Albans, received a 12-month sentence suspended for two years.
Paul Frost, 37, received a 15 month sentence.
Ian Frost, 35, outside Nottingham Crown Court.
Paul Frost, 37, who was jailed for 15 months and, right, his brother Ian Frost, 35, who was given 33 months behind bars
Sambridge was also ordered to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work.
The men had all previously pleaded guilty to charges of making, distributing and possessing indecent images of children.
It also meant a number of paedophiles were also taken out of positions of trust, including teachers, doctors, youth workers and police officers.
Jailed: Ian Sambridge, 32, who received a suspended sentence for his role in the paedophile ring.
The group had been involved in the running of illegal uncensored news groups on the internet in order to circulate the images and movies to 46 countries, Lincolnshire Police said.
Brothers Paul and Ian Frost, along with Sambridge, all pleaded guilty to distributing indecent images of children.
Rowland entered guilty pleas to distributing, making and possessing indecent images of children.
Sentencing them at Nottingham Crown Court, 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.
He also commended the complex investigation by police and law enforcement agencies and described it as ‘painstaking and groundbreaking’.
Mr Justice Calvert-Smith jailed Ian Frost and Rowland for 33 months.
Paul Rowland, 34, who was jailed for 33 months.
He described Frost as the ‘leading light who devised the scheme and was the main beneficiary’.
Rowland, who stared at the floor as the judge spoke to him, was ordered to undergo a sex offender’s course as well as be subject to a sexual offences prevention order.
Paul Frost was jailed for 15 months while Sambridge was given a 12-month sentence suspended for two years.
The judge told them: ‘It is astonishing that four such people, well-educated, should choose to embark on the course that they did.
‘It’s equally astonishing that in the seven-year investigation hardly a word of regret has fallen from the lips of any defendant for the victims depicted in their news groups.’
ONE OF THE UK’S SMALLEST FORCES HAS SMASHED AN INTERNATIONAL PAEDOPHILE NETWORK
LINCOLNSHIRE POLICE TEAMED UP WITH THE CHILD EXPLOITATION AND ONLINE PROTECTION (CEOP) CENTRE TO LEAD A GLOBAL OPERATION
CRIMINALS BEHIND WORLDWIDE INTERNET NEWS SERVICE OFFERING INDECENT IMAGES OF CHILDREN PROSECUTED AND NETWORK DISMANTLED
TO DATE, 132 UK CHILDREN PROTECTED AND SAFEGUARDED
211 UK SUSPECTS IDENTIFIED
38 UK CONVICTIONS TO DATE
45 COUNTRIES INVOLVED
An international network distributing horrific images of child sexual abuse has been smashed by Lincolnshire Police and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre.
This has resulted in 132 children in the UK being protected and safeguarded and a number of paedophiles being taken out of positions of trust, including teachers, doctors, youth workers and police officers.
Four men pleaded guilty to a number of charges relating to the distribution and possession of indecent images of children at Nottingham Crown Court.
All were masterminds in running a UK-based ‘news service’ website offering more than 1,300 suspected paedophiles in 45 countries access to millions of child abuse images.
Two men, who operated their businesses between 2002 and 2009, distributed indecent images to countries in Europe, Asia, America and Africa, from a tiny hamlet called Martin Dales in rural Lincolnshire.
Along with their counterparts in Sheffield and St Albans, they used a massive array of computer equipment, including an industrial sized server with the storage capacity of 3.2 million floppy disks.
The server seized by Lincolnshire Police was so large that when it was switched on to be forensically analysed, the electricity consumption was so great that it dimmed the lights in the building where it was being examined.
The defendants received a total benefit of £2.2m from running this subscription service used by thousands of customers, including paedophiles around the globe.
The web based ‘news services’ operated by the offenders, including Athenanews.com, were businesses which charged users to access discussion folders, or ‘news groups’. Subscribers could access and post comments and pictures on a whole range of topics.
Many users of the site were not engaged in illegal activity and need not fear police action.
Beneath their seemingly innocent façade, these news services carried millions of indecent images of children, which were being distributed between servers in Britain, the USA and the rest of the world.
Lincolnshire led the investigation, codenamed Operation Alpine, after receiving intelligence from the CEOP Centre.
It quickly developed into a joint operation that saw both organisations working closely together in managing a truly global response.
Nearly all of the UK’s forces, from Strathclyde to Devon and Cornwall, were involved in the investigation.
Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Northamptonshire Police all contributed direct operational support.
Lincolnshire Police, along with CEOP, teamed up with Serious Organised Crime Agency and several international law enforcement agencies to bring the network down. The Crown Prosecution Service’s East Midlands Complex Casework Unit provided legal support throughout the enquiry.
The total number of items seized and examined during this four-year enquiry amounts to 2,182 exhibits.
A total of 1.3 million e-mails have been analysed, many manually by detectives. The enquiry team have viewed and categorised 5.5 million images and nearly 6,000 movies.
In the UK this has led to 211 suspects being located and more than 178 separate premises being searched to date.
Of those subscribers investigated in Britain so far, nearly two-thirds either admitted the possession of indecent images, or they were found upon initial analysis of the individual’s computers.
For the remainder, investigations are either ongoing or in a relatively small proportion of cases, have been subject to no further action.
The vast majority of the UK suspects have not previously come to the attention of the police.
As a result action has been taken to protect and safeguard 132 children in the UK alone.
To date 38 offenders have been dealt with for the possession of indecent images of children by way of caution or court sentence, including imprisonment. Many other cases are still progressing through the courts or are being investigated by the police.
All of these offenders will now have to sign the sex offenders’ register for up to 10 years.
The investigation into these suspects has led to the identification of a number of contact offences against children being discovered.
In some cases, investigations into customers of the site revealed they were sexually abusing relatives or children known to them.
One such case involved an ex-teacher in Lothian and Borders, who was convicted of possessing indecent images of children and as a result of the media coverage of the court case, past pupil’s volunteered information regarding being the victims of historical abuse. This led to an additional investigation and the conviction of this individual for indecently assaulting two children.
• Deputy Head of Cumbrian NHS Trust. Indecent Images of Children recovered. Pleaded guilty. Community sentence with sex offenders’ internet treatment programme. Banned from working with children for 10 years, Sex Offender Register for five years.
• Lincolnshire suspect arrested by Alpine detectives on an aircraft returning from the Philippines. Sentenced to six months imprisonment at Lincoln Crown Court.
• Devon and Cornwall scout leader and ex-school governor. 26-week prison sentence.
• Humberside school crossing patrol worker. Sentenced to eight months imprisonment, five-year Sex Offences Prevention Order and requirement to sign the Sex Offender Register
• Ian Frost (35), of Martin Dales near Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire pleaded guilty to distributing indecent images of children.
• Paul Dean Rowland (34), of Martin Dales near Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire pleaded guilty to distributing, making and possessing indecent images of children.
• Paul David Frost (37), of Woodhouse, Sheffield, pleaded guilty to distributing indecent images of children.
• Ian Richard Sambridge (32), of St Albans pleaded guilty to distributing indecent images of children.
Det Ch Supt Roger Bannister said: “Protecting and safeguarding children has been our main focus throughout this investigation and it is satisfying for those involved to see these really good results.
“It has always been in my mind, and that of the investigation team, that every single face in the millions of child abuse images in this case is someone’s daughter or son. Of course, by virtue of their age and position in society, children are extremely vulnerable to this kind of very serious and illegal activity.
“For me, this investigation was groundbreaking. As a detective of a number of years, I have been involved in many major crime enquiries involving kidnap, rape and murder. As a senior investigating officer, I have also led a number of investigations of that type and magnitude, but Operation Alpine was very different.
“In many respects it was very much more difficult as the force – Lincolnshire Police was not only leading a large-scale international operation, but also handling extremely challenging types of criminality.
“We very carefully and methodically advanced forward, often seeking legal advice, ensuring the basis for arrests and prosecutions was absolutely sound.
“Many of the technical aspects of the case were also very challenging and complex from an investigative perspective.
“I am very grateful to the Lincolnshire Police Authority, which has supported this investigation and shared the force’s commitment to seeing it through to such a positive position.
“I am also grateful to my colleagues in the force, CEOP, the lawyers and counsel working with the Crown Prosecution Service and to the many specialists who advised and worked with us. Investigations of this scale are truly team efforts and we would not be where we are today without the assistance from our partners particularly CEOP. I would also like to take their opportunity to thank the police forces of Derbyshire, Leicestershire Nottinghamshire, and Northamptonshire as they all assisted in the seconding of staff to the investigation.
“Finally, I hope this case sends out a powerful message to people with a sexual interest in children worldwide – the internet is not a place for this kind of activity. We will trace you and you will be brought to justice.”
Peter Davies is the senior police officer heading up the CEOP Centre and the ACPO lead for child abuse investigations.
Prior to this he was Assistant Chief Constable for Lincolnshire Police and as such has seen the operation throughout.
He said: “From the outset of this operation, our strategy was to safeguard children found to be at risk – wherever they were, bring offenders to justice, deter people from using the internet to share child abuse images and reassure the public that police forces, national bodies and partner agencies can work together effectively to protect them. Today’s convictions mark a critical milestone in fulfilling the strategy to the letter.
“Many of the images being shared online were horrific. The lengths to which people went to try and conceal their criminal activity were huge but did not prevent them being caught by persistent and dedicated work. This not only brought offenders to justice but enabled children at high risk to be safeguarded and protected.
“Offenders out there thinking they can operate online anonymously should look at these results and think again. The officers in Lincolnshire, CEOP and the wider global police community who worked collectively on the massive operation should all feel rightly proud in smashing this network”.
Detective Superintendent Paul Gibson, who ran Operation Alpine on a day to day basis, said: “This has been a massive and complex enquiry, unlike anything seen before in Lincolnshire or in the UK.
“It has offered unique opportunities to bring to justice these individuals who have distributed indecent images of children via news services and also those customers that have accessed them.
“From day one, the priority of this investigation was to protect and safeguard children. The investigative team have excelled at achieving this aim and I know they are extremely proud at having done so much to reduce the risk of horrendous sexual abuse against so many vulnerable children in the UK and throughout the World”.
Lincolnshire County Council Director of Children’s Services Peter Duxbury said: “This operation has been immensely successful in protecting large numbers of children from immediate harm and will also safeguard many more by making other abusers and potential offenders aware that the Police Service is absolutely determined to tackle this type of crime.
“We will continue to work closely with police colleagues to identify abusers and protect children”.
Crown Advocate from the Crown Prosecution Service East Midlands Complex Casework Unit Samantha Shallow said:
“The Crown Prosecution Service’s East Midlands Complex Casework Unit joined the investigation team at an early stage and worked closely with them. This co-operation between the prosecution agencies has resulted in producing a strong case and guilty pleas to the offences. The main aim of the prosecution was to ensure that the victims were protected from unscrupulous people whose only interest was in making money out of their vulnerability.
“Ian Frost, Paul Frost, Paul Rowland and Ian Sambridge profited over a period of years from selling indecent photographs of children to members of the public around the world. The defendants and their customers have perpetuated the exploitation of the children depicted in those photographs for financial gain.”