Four face jail over ‘horrific’ child porn network

Four men are facing jail after police smashed an international paedophile ring distributing millions of “horrific” images of children to more than 40 countries around the world.

Paedophiles including teachers, doctors, youth workers and police officers have been detected as a result of the investigation which has triggered protection proceedings for 132 children in the UK.

Yesterday Paul Frost, 37, of Woodhouse, Sheffield; Ian Frost, 35, and his partner Paul Rowlands, 34, of Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire; and Ian Sambridge, 32, of St Albans, pleaded guilty at Nottingham Crown Court to various charges of making, distributing and possessing indecent images of children.

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The group had masterminded the running of a UK-based “news service” offering more than 1,300 suspected paedophiles in 45 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and America access to millions of images of child abuse.

Last night Detective Chief Superintendent Roger Bannister, who headed the operation, said: “I hope this case sends out a powerful message to people with a sexual interest in children worldwide – the internet is not a place for this kind of activity. We will trace you and you will be brought to justice.

“Protecting and safeguarding children has been our main focus throughout this investigation and it is satisfying for those involved to see these really good results.

“It has always been in my mind, and that of the investigation team, that every single face in the millions of child abuse images in this case is someone’s daughter or son.”

Lincolnshire Police launched the investigation following a tip-off from German police that Ian Frost was running a news service linked with indecent images of children.

A raid on his home uncovered industrial-sized computer equipment so powerful that when officers plugged it in the lights in the room dimmed.

Users of the news service could pay a fee enabling them to access folders which included some labelled “teens”, “baby”, and “boys”.

Officers also found other news services were being run by Paul Frost, also an IT worker, while Sambridge, a legal adviser, was running another.

The group ran their business from 2002-9 and netted £2.2m, even though they did not appear to have extravagant lifestyles.

Lincolnshire Police, along with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, teamed up with the Serious Organised Crime Agency and international law enforcement agencies to bring down the network. The investigation involved nearly all the UK’s forces.

More than 200 users received illegal content in the UK, of which 38 have so far faced the courts. The largest number of subscribers was based in the United States.

Police said the vast majority of the UK suspects had not previously come to the attention of the police. In some cases, investigations into customers of the site revealed they were sexually abusing relatives or children known to them.

Peter Davies, the senior police officer heading the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, said: “Many of the images being shared online were horrific.

“The lengths to which people went to try and conceal their criminal activity were huge but did not prevent them being caught by persistent and dedicated work.

“This not only brought offenders to justice but enabled children at high risk to be safeguarded and protected.

“Offenders out there thinking they can operate online anonymously should look at these results and think again.”

Det Supt Paul Gibson, who had day-to-day control of the inquiry, said the extent of the images and films uncovered ranged from the lowest level of indecent images of children to the most extreme.

“From day one, the priority of this investigation was to protect and safeguard children. The investigative team have excelled at achieving this aim and I know they are extremely proud at having done so much to reduce the risk of horrendous sexual abuse against so many vulnerable children in the UK and throughout the world”.