Child porn suspects set to be cleared in evidence ‘shambles’

DOZENS of men accused of downloading child pornography from the internet may have been wrongly prosecuted, according to expert prosecution and defence witnesses. New evidence suggests that Operation Ore, Britain’s biggest child pornography investigation, may have prosecuted innocent men on the basis of discredited American police testimony and questionable forensic methods …..The nationwide police investigation was launched three years ago after a list of 7,200 British suspects was supplied to British police by American authorities. The men on the list stand accused of having used their credit cards to pay for child porn through Landslide, a sex website that operated in Texas from 1996-9. The accusations have led to 33 suicides, most recently that of Commodore David White, the commander of British forces in Gibraltar. He was found dead in his swimming pool on January 8. Bates believes records of credit card transactions on the site are unreliable and therefore the names of alleged subscribers cannot be used as evidence. Thomas Reedy, the man who set up the website, was investigated by the FBI in the 1990s for credit card fraud. “I am convinced that a massive fraud has been perpetrated at Landslide and an unknown number of subscriptions are fake,” said Bates….In a case that legal experts believe may prove a landmark judgment, Judge David Bentley threw out the prosecution argument. In his judgment, Bentley dismissed some police evidence as “utter nonsense”…One police officer, Peter Johnston, became so disillusioned at what he described as the Ore “witch-hunt” that he resigned from his job with Merseyside police. In a letter to The Sunday Times, Johnston said: “I began to doubt the validity of the evidence surrounding the circumstances of the initial investigation in America . . . I found it difficult to rationalise how offenders had been identified solely on a credit card number.”

Sunday Times

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