There are now a million paedophile websites featuring the sexual abuse of children – and police cannot shut them down.
The disturbing revelation was heard during the sentencing of a Hull man who has a “perverted obsession” with watching children being abused.
Mark Whitehead, 26, who had been viewing indecent films and photographs for three years, was only caught after using his nephew’s computer to download the material. The nephew saw the images when the computer was returned and reported Whitehead to police, Hull Crown Court heard on Tuesday.
After hearing the case against Whitehead put by prosecutor Stephen Welch, Judge Peter Kelson QC asked: “It just occurred to me that is there no means whereby police can close down the websites that broadcast this material?”
Mr Welch said: “Your honour, although I have not directly discussed it with officers, I have had a number of conversations with officers from the relevant unit. Information given to me I found profoundly shocking; indicating there are now one million sites on the internet where indecent images of children may be accessed.
“In addition, a large number of the sites are hosted on servers not in Western Europe or North America, so therefore they are far more difficult for the authorities to exercise control over and close down.”
The judge said: “There would be a much higher impact if the police were given sufficient resources to actually bring to court some of the evil people actually profiting from broadcasting this material, rather than [offenders like] this defendant.”
Judge Kelson said he could not recall a case of anyone behind the broadcasting or hosting of such material being prosecuted during his eight years as a full-time judge. Mr Welch said he could only recall a single prosecution of someone who had uploaded indecent images in his 11 years as a Crown advocate.
Police visited Whitehead’s home on December 14 last year and seized a laptop, hard drive, USB stick and mobile phone.
Across the devices were 14 images and five movies at category A – the most serious – 29 images and three videos at category B; and 87 images and one film at category C.
One of the category A films lasted 15 minutes and 42 seconds and featured a girl aged five or six being sexually abused. Another was of a boy aged four or five.
Mr Welch said a further aggravating feature was that Whitehead had used a search engine which made it easier to disguise what he had been looking for.
In interview with police and with the author of a pre-sentence report, Whitehead admitted viewing the material for his own sexual gratification.
He said he had originally viewed adult pornography, and began watching and seeking child abuse material after seeing a “pop-up” image.
Whitehead, of Hopwood Close, west Hull, admitted three offences of making indecent images or photographs
Judge Kelson sentenced Whitehead to a three-year community order requiring him to attend 31 sessions of the Horizon sex offender programme and have up to 40 days rehabilitation. The judge said if he breached it he would jail him for eight months.
Whitehead must register as a sex offender for five years and was made subject to a sexual harm prevention order for the same period.