August 2008

‘Librarian’ of global paedophile ring jailed

This is the face of one of the bosses behind a worldwide internet paedophile ring smashed apart by UK cops in a massive undercover operation.

Twenty-seven year old Philip Thompson, who acted as the ‘librarian’ of the network that spanned 33 countries, was jailed today for three years nine months – but warned he could remain behind bars for much longer.

The self-taught British computer expert used his skills to moderate an invitation-only website forum that featured ‘borderline illegal’ images of children playing in their underwear.

Police said the gateway site was used to prove users had a perverted interest in children and once users were accepted as members they would then be linked up to other more secretive online environments.

It was here that thousands of more disturbing images and videos, as well as information about vulnerable children, were exchanged.

The capture of Thompson, of Gooseport Road Stockton-on-Tees, Cleveland, has saved 15 children from the evil clutches of the vile paedophile ring and led to dozens more arrests, it has emerged.

Police have so far pinpointed 360 suspects involved in this global trade of child pornography, the court was told.

Thompson, who lived with his mother, pleaded guilty to 27 charges, including 16 counts of making indecent photographs of children, seven counts of distributing indecent photographs of children and one count of causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity.

Prosecutor Harry Hadfield told Teesside Crown Court that when cops raided the unemployed driver’s home in February this year they recovered two desktop computers and a laptop, as well as a selection of other computer paraphernalia.

Forensic analysis by computer experts established that the defendant had 241,000 indecent photographs of children, being one of the largest seizures of indecent photographs in the UK,’ he told the court.

Mr Hadfield said: “The defendant’s role was to police the website, which gave him the opportunity to transfer these images to his computer.

“The evidence recovered from his computer showed he had amassed a vast collection of indecent photographs of children.

“It appeared the defendant kept some of the most serious images to use as trading chips.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Braithwaite, of Cleveland Police, said: “Thompson was a critical piece of this network. He was, essentially, the librarian for a myriad of images that were distributed to like-minded individuals both in this country and elsewhere.

“I hope this result acts as a deterrent and sends out a clear warning that activity such as this will not be tolerated.”

Of the near 250,000 images on Thompson’s computers, more than 3,000 were of levels four and five – the worst kind of child abuse images.

“The Crown would say that this collection of indecent photographs and the subsequent police investigation revealed that this defendant has been involved in the distribution of these photographs for the last four or five years,” Mr Hadfield said.

He added that 51 arrests had been made as a result of the investigation into Thompson and inquiries were continuing.

The international child abuse network was infiltrated by police in the largest deployment yet of undercover officers in the UK used in a child protection inquiry.

Detective Sergeant Becky Driscoll, of Cleveland Police, said Thompson thought he was operating ‘below the radar’.

“He was integral. He played a key role. He was trusted by others members of this site, so much so that he stored horrific images of child abuse on their behalf,” she said.

“He described the 250,000 child abuse images as his collection. He was prepared to share that with acquaintances he found on his forum.”

Jim Gamble, chief executive of the Ceop, added: “This website, whilst appearing to operate on the margins of legality, was clearly a front for the sinister, sexual abuse of children and an image trading ground for paedophiles.

“There is a simple message for those individuals like Thompson, who think they can go to this website – or indeed any space on the internet – and discuss their sexual interest in children and share images.

“You leave a digital footprint. We will track you down and hold you to account.”