A man whose life was ruined when he was charged with child sex offences after looking at legal gay pornography in a hotel room has accused the police and Crown Prosecution Service of a “homophobic witch-hunt” after his case was finally thrown out. The defendant endured a “two-year nightmare” after being arrested in front of his family, charged with 10 offences almost a year later and repeatedly bailed, before every charge was dropped. If convicted he would have faced jail and been forced to sign the sex offenders’ register. His father died while he was awaiting trial.
The CPS, which spent tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money pursuing the case, offered no evidence in court – in effect conceding there was no case to answer. His lawyers say they gave the CPS conclusive documentary evidence three months ago that all models featured in the pornography were of legal age.
The Independent is not naming the man, a professional in his thirties, and has agreed not to disclose which court the hearing took place in, to protect his identity. He has never been in trouble with the law before.
The defendant’s nightmare began during a business trip in September 2011 when he viewed images on a website specialising in “twink” pornography. Twink is a well-known term in gay slang for young-looking men who are aged 18 or over.
When a female guest who stayed in the same room the following week saw the computer’s browsing history she complained to the hotel and staff called the police. Six months later, in March 2012, the man was arrested at his father’s home.
Speaking after the trial closed the man said: “While I feel utter relief and a sense of euphoria that the nightmare has ended, I am at the same time extremely angry: angry at the CPS, the police and, above all, angry that my father, who never doubted me and stood by me, never got to see this day. I’m angrier that that was the last year of his life and that I just couldn’t be the son during this time that I wanted to be to him.
“I can only conclude that the police officers and the CPS showed institutional homophobia throughout this case. I doubt I would have been treated the same way if heterosexual pornography was involved. Police... were obviously clueless about pornography – as were the CPS.”
In January this year the CPS charged the man with nine counts of making indecent images and one count of possessing indecent images.
He was represented by Myles Jackman, the leading obscenity lawyer who has won several victories in so-called “porn trial” cases, including one last year involving Simon Walsh, a former aide to the London mayor, Boris Johnson. Mr Jackman obtained signed USC 2257 documents, required by adult websites to prove models they use are not underage, and photographs of all the men involved in the website holding up their passports, which clearly show their dates of birth.
After supplying them to the CPS in January, the CPS finally wrote to Mr Jackman’s office at Hodge Jones & Allen in London this week stating its intention to offer no evidence.
Mr Jackman told The Independent: “The CPS has at best showed an ignorance of gay culture and at worst showed itself to be institutionally homophobic.” USC 2257 is extremely stringent US federal legislation which the defendant said the police were “completely unaware” of.
Mr Jackman said he had complained to Keir Starmer, the outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions, about the CPS’s conduct in what he called the “Twink Trial” but is yet to receive a reply.
The judge ruled that the prosecution “had acted throughout with due diligence”. The judge said: “I do not accept that [the defendant] has had to pay to prove his innocence.”
The CPS denied allegations of homophobia and said the sexual orientation of the people in the images was “entirely irrelevant”. A spokesman said: “The images showed what appeared to be males below the age of 18 engaging in sexual activity, which the judge agreed was a reasonable conclusion, and this was supported by the computer’s search history. It was on this basis that we decided that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute the defendant.
“The defence asserted that the models were over 18 but did not provide conclusive evidence of this until 28 October, more than nine months after the defendant was charged. When this evidence was provided, the case was reassessed and the prosecution was stopped.
“This decision, like the decision to charge, was taken on the evidence available to us. Any suggestion that factors irrelevant to the evidence were considered is completely baseless."
Timeline: The ‘witch-hunt’ in full
September 2011 Defendant views pornography on hotel computer during business trip. One week later a female guest complains after seeing browsing history.
March 2012 The man is arrested in front of relatives at his father’s home and interviewed under caution. Officers seize computer from the man’s home.
November 2012 Police say they have found images they consider to be indecent. The defendant is charged with nine counts of making indecent images of children and one of possession of child abuse images.
August 2013 Trial date set. IT experts for both prosecution and defence subsequently concur over statements from models in the images relating to their age.
4 October New trial date set for November.
29 October CPS write to defendant’s lawyers with intention to offer no evidence.
1 November Case thrown out at Crown Court.
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