Abortion site hacker James Jeffery jailed

 

A computer "whiz kid" who broke into the website of Britain's biggest abortion provider has been jailed for two years and eight months.

James Jeffery, 27, targeted the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) because he "disagreed" with the decisions of two women he knew to terminate their pregnancies, London's Southwark Crown Court was told.

He stole about 10,000 database records containing the personal details of women which he later intended to publish.

Prosecutor Daniel Higgins told the court that Jeffery also "defaced" the website's homepage with the logo of the hacking group Anonymous and posted an anti-abortion sentiment.

Jeffery wrote on the BPAS website: "An unborn child does not have an opinion, a choice or any rights.

"Who gave you the right to murder an unborn child and profit from that murder?

"The product abortion is skilfully marketed and sold to the woman at a crisis time in their life. She buys the product, finds it defective and wants to return it for a refund but it is too late."

He signed off using his online alias Pablo Escobar - named after the Colombian drug lord, Mr Higgins said.

The former software engineering student then boasted about his hacking feat on Twitter.

Police swooped on his home in Castle Street, Wednesbury, West Midlands, in the early hours of March 9, after they traced him through his IP (internet service provider) address.

Jeffery, who admitted two offences under the Computer Misuse Act at an earlier hearing, targeted the BPAS website after two women, to whom he was close, had abortions.

He accomplished the hacking using a "learning penetration testing software" which identifies "vulnerabilities" in websites, the court heard.

"He boasted on his twitter account that he had access to the website," said Mr Higgins.

"In order to demonstrate that he had hacked the website, he posted the log-on details of Clare Murphy, who is the head of communications at the charity."

When Jeffery was arrested, police found his computer "in the process of being wiped clean".

The court was told that he intended to publish the data, which included names, email addresses and telephone numbers on an online sharing site but later changed his mind.

The court heard that he did not access medical information about any of the women.

Mr Higgins said: "Clare Murphy states women who contact the charity are often in a vulnerable situation.

"They speak to teenagers who have not disclosed their pregnancy to their parents, women who have been victims of domestic violence and victims of sexual violence - many women for whom an unplanned pregnancy is a very private affair and would not wish to share this with others.

"The publication of the information would cause great anguish for women who contact the charity in confidence and would put some of these women at serious risk mentally and physically."

Sentencing, Judge Michael Gledhill QC said: "You only have to think for a few seconds of the terrible consequences had that threat been carried out."

Judge Gledhill said that at the time of the offences, Jeffery held strong views about abortion.

"Just as many people disagree with the view you held, many do agree," the judge said.

"However, those who find abortion repugnant do not use this as an excuse to justify deliberately committing offences."

Judge Gledhill continued: "Your skills are so good that you decided to hack into their (BPAS's) website and you succeeded.

"You stole the records of approximately 10,000 women. Many of them were vulnerable women, vulnerable simply because they had had a termination or because of their youth or because their family did not know about their situation.

"You were proud about what you had done - you boasted about it on Twitter.

"In my view, it is significant that the online name you used on Twitter was that of notorious criminal Pablo Escobar."

The judge added: "To the charity itself, the fear is that great harm may have been done - only time will tell whether the consequences of your actions are as grave as feared."

Mitigating, Shaun Wallace, told the court that Jeffery had entered the website to test its vulnerability, adding: "The more curious he became, the less responsible he became.

"He is not a staunch anti-abortionist.

"He is a bit of a computer whizkid."

Mr Wallace told the court that the statement written on the website was not created by Jeffery, but was "cut and pasted from Google".

Mr Wallace said that Jeffery was a "part-time" member of the hacking group Anonymous.

But the court was told that Jeffery had contact with hacker "Sabu" - possibly the same Sabu who was unmasked as notorious Lulzsec leader and influential Anonymous member Hector Xavier Monsegur, who now works as an informant for the FBI.

The pair spoke about their shared interest in music since February last year, Mr Wallace said.

Jeffery wrote BPAS a letter of apology expressing his remorse for the attack and suggested ways that the charity could improve website security.

The court was told that Jeffery also admitted to police he had identified "vulnerabilities" on a string of websites for major international organisations including the FBI, CIA, West Midlands Police, the Houses of Parliament, the US navy, Arizona police and Spanish police.

BPAS is a non-statutory abortion provider which treats around 55,000 people per year.

The not-for-profit charity also provides counselling for unplanned pregnancy and abortion treatment and gives advice about contraception, sexually-transmitted infection testing and sterilisation.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own