Child porn inquiry faces legal challenge

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's biggest online paedophile investigations will be challenged in the Court of Appeal following allegations that hundreds of men may have been wrongly convicted in a "huge miscarriage of justice", it was reported today.



A number of experts claim scores of those caught by Operation Ore, an extensive police inquiry involving thousands of British men, may not be paedophiles, but victims of identity theft.

Their allegations will be tested when a judge rules whether the case of Anthony O'Shea - jailed for five months in 2005 for incitement to distribute indecent images of children - should go to full appeal, The Guardian reported.

Solicitor Chris Saltrese, who is representing Mr O'Shea and dozens of others convicted as a result of Operation Ore, said: "If the appeal is successful the convictions of others for the same offence will fall too.

"We are talking in the hundreds and we say this is a huge miscarriage of justice."

Ore began in 2001 after US investigators passed on the names of 7,100 Britons registered on Landslide Inc, an online company providing access to adult pornography and child abuse images.

An estimated 39 of those arrested and prosecuted during Ore have killed themselves, the paper reported.

Details of every individual who was convicted or cautioned were placed on the sex offenders register.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), which co-ordinated Ore, insists it was a successful operation, resulting in more than 2,600 British men who downloaded images of child abuse, or attempted to, being brought to justice.

Mr O'Shea's case is one of hundreds involving men who were convicted of incitement to distribute indecent images of children.

Mr Saltrese told the paper his client admitted accessing adult pornography but would produce evidence that his credit card had been fraudulently used to access a paedophile site within Landslide.

Mr O'Shea's home was raided in 2002 but no images were found, and at the time the card was used Mr Saltrese says his client was at a festival.

He said: "I have clients who have lost everything: their jobs, their homes, their marriages, their children and their health," he said.

Mr Saltrese claimed the Landslide database was "absolutely riddled with fraud".

"We are not just talking about isolated incidents here. In some cases clients did make a complaint to their credit card companies that they had been the victims of fraud, in others they didn't, but that is kind of by the by - even if they hadn't made a complaint we say the evidence against them is unreliable."

His case is disputed by other experts who worked on Operation Ore.

Professor Peter Sommer, a computer crime expert, told the paper: "There were very high levels of correlation between people having subscribed to that website and people being found in possession with child abuse images.

"In the incitement cases they did not just use the details on the database as a reason to prosecute. They went to the individual's bank to confirm that transactions had taken place, they checked whether the individual had ever complained that his card had been used fraudulently. They did not charge everyone they investigated."