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back to article Conviction overturned for abuse images bought from bookshop

A London judge has dismissed child pornography charges brought against a man who was prosecuted for possessing books bought from a bookshop. The judge said if the Crown Prosecution Service really believed these books contained "Level One" images of child sexual abuse then it should take action against publishers or retailers …

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WTF?

Type it into Google

and you can read for free.

Although I guess reading wasn't the issue here. Looks like the police were going for an easy statistic here.

'Where did you get this book?'

Waterstones.

Likely story sunshine. Right where's my rubber gloves

Possibility that you could fail an eCRB just for a buying a book from waterstones. No smoke without fire and all that....

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Big Brother

I'd be fascinated....

....to know what particular "smoke" brought him to police attention, if he had the books on him and that was used to obtain a search warrant it's probably an illegal search, after the conviction was overtured the CPS believed they still had a case even without the four books but were refused a retrial, after all he was charged with five counts of possessing indecent images of children, does that mean that the DVD was also extreme porn of children?

The CPS obviously dropped the ball here, they should not have charged him for posessing the books, but the DVD wasn't thrown out, so either justice has been served and an innocent man has been cleared or a guilty man has got away with it, either way it's not a satisfactory situation.

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WTF?

A triumph for common sense?

But an innocent man's name has been released into the public domain. Will the police give him a new identity and gain an injunction preventing the press from releasing any details about him?

Oh wait, you have to be CONVICTED of a crime, like murdering a two year old to get that sort of consideration.

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Unhappy

Except the charge will still appear on background checks...

And they'll also appear on any background checks he has done on him, should he ever apply for a job working with children or vulnerable people. Who's gonna hire someone with "CHARGED WITH POSSESSION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY" on their record, regardless of whether in tiny letters underneath it mentions the charges were dismissed. Wanted to become a teacher? Or a nurse? Or any one of a hundred other jobs? Tough shit! And don't expect compensation from the government for screwing your life up.

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g e
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His name's already released

So release the names of the coppers, too....

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Anonymous Coward

Indeed

"If the Crown Prosecution Service wishes to test whether the pictures in the books are indecent, the right way to deal with the matter is by way of prosecuting the publisher or retailer - not the individual purchaser"

Now if they could only get their heads round applying that to the internet and "possession of images deemed by the government to be of an extreme nature", versus those distributing the filth, we would all, including the children, be safer.

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Unhappy

In tiny letters immediately underneath it mentions

"Got off on a technicality."

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Name releases

And release the names of the checkout bunny, and the shelf stacker, as this team of filth purveyors triggered this fiasco!

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It is long past time ...

... for the identity of people charged with offences to be kept secret unless found guilty, unless there are pressing reasons to do otherwise, a decision that would have to come from the judge (this is already done in some cases, for instance where is might lead to identification of a child in a sexual abuse case). Too much now rides on mere accusation for anonymity not to be the default situation.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Except the charge will still appear on background checks...

Have you ever wondered just how did this come to light anyway?

I mean, the police don't routinely check what books I have and the content of, so one wonders how he came to be in this predicament and what else he may have done that has led to this - but it was obviously something to warrant such Police attention.

It strikes me that he was in trouble for something else - probably related in some way, possible even this charge, but the Police struggling to find any evidence on which to convict him resorted to this.

So, while I accept he's an innocent man and the basis of his charge was stupid, you don't get into this kinda situation without reason.

So you'll have to excuse me because, lacking any more detailed information on this I'm of the opinion I'd rather edge on the side of caution on this one and I'd prefer he wasn't working with my children. Sorry.

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@AC 11.37

As both of these books are photography works it's not beyond the realms of possibility that he's a photographer.

In which case this could all be the result of knowing his rights and therefore upsetting the boys in blue.

Erring on the side of caution is ok, but when your knowledge comes from the Paedofinder General (authority vested by readers of The Sun and The Daily Mail), then it's not a very good position to start your reasoning.

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Stop

@AC 11:37

I think you just summed up the reasons why people's names should be kept from the press unless they are proven guilty.

You say: "So, while I accept he's an innocent man and the basis of his charge was stupid, you don't get into this kinda situation without reason."

Just wow. So actually you don't accept he's an innocent man at all. You actually think he's a pedophile who got lucky this time, but his mad kiddie fiddling ways will get him into trouble soon.

I can think of a myriad ways he could have come to the attention of the police without any wrong doing. Maybe someone with your mindset was in his house and saw a photography book with a picture of a young naked girl on the cover? I'm sure your moral outrage would take you straight to the nearest police station. Maybe he had an argument with a friend who decided to take things to another level, knowing that the current wave of pedageddon sweeping the UK would guarantee him some jail time?

When I was young my Grandfather was a keen amateur photographer. He had a whole bookcase of photography books. I remember looking through them and spotting a section on portraits that included naked pictures of what obviously was a young, teenaged girl. Now that's a few pictures, on one page of a 200 page book, on a bookcase of maybe 40 photography books. Can you please tell me, by your massive moral compass, was my Grandfather a pedophile? And if he wasn't, why is this guy different? Where exactly do we draw the line?

You sir (or madam) are an idiot.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @AC 11.37

Yes, it could very well be a photographer of landscapes and so forth.

But my point, which i think you are missing, is, none of the media reports including this one by The Register include any detail to explain why the Police had cause to search his home, or explain why, accordingly to the Telegraph a charge of posession extreme Porn DVD was brought and then dropped.

So, how exactly do you get yourself into trouble with the Police by being a Photographer to the point they search your home and try to bring first charges of extreme porn and then child porn?

If the news report said for example, he went to the police to ask for clarification on if the images in his book were legal, then that would give a completely different impression. But, the myriad of ways in which he may otherwise have come to the attention of the police are completely lacking in any article aren't they!

So, to clarify, I do not think "he is a paedophile", and i think the case brought against him is utterly stupid and accept he is innocent of those charges. But there is not enough - or any - explanation given as to why the hell is got into this mess, which i feel is a bit dodgy, and therefore I'd rather edge on the side of caution until I knew otherwise, if I may.

You cannot call a parent an idiot for preferring their child not to be in contact with someone with no explanation as to why they have had such charges previously brought against them.

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FAIL

Nobody is missing your point. Except perhaps you.

Your point is classic "no smoke without fire" i.e. an assumption of possible guilt even though he's been found innocent. This is precisely the reason why it is argued that such cases should be anonymous.

See that thing floating over your head? That's the point.

And see that thing floating way way above that? That's the irony of you making this argument while posting as an AC.

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Unhappy

Ref: Re: Except the charge will still appear on background checks..

"....., the police don't routinely check what books I have and the content of, so one wonders how he came to be in this predicament and what else he may have done that has led to this - but it was obviously something to warrant such Police attention."

A naive view unfortunately, I wish it was true. Here follows a practical example;

After the hungerford killings, and the clamp down on firearms,lots of press coverage vilifying firearms owners, etc. During this time customs brought to the attention of the police a magazine that was being imported into the country from the US, on the front cover it had a picture of an automatic weapon.

Now most forces, took the note from the over zealos customs officers and filed it under B1N.

However West Sussex, sent out officers to all the people recieving this magazine, to question them. Unfortunately for one plod, the person in question was an international journalist, who then proceded to question the police officer, and publish an article on it.

West Sussex's action obviously had nothing to do with scraping up favourable press coverage for the next senior officer's promotion or budget negoations, or job justification?

I would suggest you look at the disparity of budget and promotion oportunities between CEOPS and the National Police e-crime Unit, when reviewing anything the police and CPS get up to when there is the possibility of press coverage.

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Anonymous Coward

Exactly my f---ing point!

Because nothing like that has been reported anywhere - you are all resorted to previously reported cases which if was the case in this case I would have no f-ing issue!!!!!

As it stands, the police upon **** UNKNOWN **** reasons, saw fit to try and charge this man of two types of pornography charge. It's not the fact they did and failed because it was and utterly stupid case they made, it's why they even tried. THAT IS MY POINT!

Now, missing that information, it's equally possible, that actually, yes he has been up to no good but the Police being halfwits made a complete cockup on the evidence front and resorted to this stupid method of trying convict him. A scenario the police are equally good at doing!

I personally find it odd that no such scenarios were mentioned as they would certainly be news-worthy.

And I know for sure that if you put any parent in the position of leaving their child with any person who has had such charges even mentioned against their name without a bloody good (IN THIS CASE COMPLETELY MISSING) explanation of why, they would no way leave their child with him. Christ, there are plenty of people who've done no wrong at all I'd not want my children left with! I can only assume you are obviously not parents!

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Anonymous Coward

Thank you, your honour.

A very sensible decision. A slightly creepy case, but the rule of law is served.

CPS, seriously, what were you thinking?!?

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Paris Hilton

What's slightly creepy about this case?

The Child Pornography Service?

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Unhappy

re: CPS, seriously, what were you thinking

I expect they thought it would be good for their statistics. I doubt much other thought went into it.

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Grenade

Indeed

So much easier to go after some poor individual who is much more likely to be bullied into submission than try and take on an established business who have access to proper lawyers and stuff.

"We cannot expect people to have respect for law and order until we teach respect to those we have entrusted to enforce those laws." — Hunter S. Thompson

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FAIL

Title thingie

Ok so if amazon shows previews of the photos or has this as a digial version for download then they are a potential carrier of child porn ? There's no way I'm opening amazon to check of course... I feel big brother watching....

Seriously though I feel this is a trust issue.... when purchasing something from a major retailer you TRUST that they do not carry any illegal content be it child porn or any other subject. You also TRUST that if this falls down then the police understand that you trusted the retailler and they go after them and/or the publisher.

It seems nobody at any point in the supply chain thought to ask "Look, are we SURE this is ok ?"

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Anonymous Coward

I also TRUST

the plod and cps to be competent and to have some integrity and the rule of law to be applied evenly and the laws to be sensible. I could go on for a while.

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Unhappy

and you

don't seem to have asked yourself if there was ANY merit at all in the original prosecution.

He didn't get away with it cos there was nothing to get away with.

And bookshops should censor books 'just in case'?

No.

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Bronze badge

No, I think they did ask

And the answer they came up with was this: "Well, we've been selling it for years, surely if there was a problem the police would just kindly tell us to take it off the shelves."

Is that so unreasonable?

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Anonymous Coward

The Age of Innocence by David Hamilton

And even then, if it was taken off the shelves (somewhere else) would you know? When i was working for Waterstones 10 years ago we got a visit from the police. According to them somebody complained we sold child pornography. Of course we were very surprised, the book they took from us (we never got/asked it back) was..... The Age of Innocence by David Hamilton

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Unhappy

Is that it?

I wasn't aware that the police randomly visited people and checked out the contents of their bookshelves, so there must be more to this story.

Perhaps he was caught wacking one out in the park with the books beside him?

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Grenade

Always one...

Other wild speculations include that he wasn't sufficiently obsequious when plod pulled him over late at night

http://www.politics.co.uk/news/policing-and-crime/police-complaints-skyrocket-$21387433.htm

"The most common complaint was about incivility or neglecting duties, with nearly 50% of all allegations regarding officers being rude or late"

Other trite ripostes include: try reading this

http://original.antiwar.com/robert-koehler/2010/10/15/then-they-came-for-me/

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Re Is that it?

Perhaps he took the book round to PC World and showed it to the Tech Guys.

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Yes, that probably is it.

"I wasn't aware that the police randomly visited people and checked out the contents of their bookshelves, so there must be more to this story."

Yes, they probably raided his house for some other reason and, finding no evidence of that crime they started to look for something, ANYTHING to charge him with so they didn't look like the complete twonks they are.

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Black Helicopters

Not random

Didn't you read the article. They are books of PHOTOGRAPHS.

Probably the guy owns a camera, and the police noticed him taking photos of the seagulls at the end of his street and suspected him of being a terrorist. (If you think that doesn't happen read Amateur photographer).

After that, they probably pulled his house apart (looking for anything they could get him on, or at least really messing up his life).

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Thumb Down

Goiong back to the original trial...

The Telegraph report on this doesn't entirely clear things up, but it does shed a little more light on the matter.

It's not clear why the police were searching his home in the first place, but in addition to the books, they found 'an "extreme" pornographic DVD'. I' m guessing that DVD was the main reason for prosecuting, however Mr Neal was cleared of that particular charge "on the trial judge's direction".

The trial still continued on the book allegations, though, but the appeal judge has said:

"Against this background, it is a matter of surprise that charges were brought against this individual in respect of the pictures. It is legitimate to wonder if such charges would have been brought against him but for his prosecution in relation to the DVD".

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Unhappy

so many thumbs down?

GuessI'll have to have my sarcasm meter adjusted.

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Flame

You don't know the half of it

"After that, they probably pulled his house apart (looking for anything they could get him on, or at least really messing up his life)."

Last year I suffered from this treatment. I had a student lodger with whom I had a difference of agreement. She moved out but 1 week later made serious allegations of sexual misconduct against me. I was arrested very early on a Saturday morning on the say so of the student with no corroborating evidence. I was handcuffed in cells for most of the day, during which, unknown to me, the Police ransacked my house looking for evidence.

What did they find? a humorous post card, showing a nude bather, sent to me, by my daughter, in 1985 and a note of effusive thanks written to me by two previous female lodgers from the previous year expressing their love to me. This did not stop the Police impounding all my IT and photographic gear, the contents of 3 filing cabinets which held my business records amd much other personal memorabilia.

Late on Saturday I was subjected to an intensive 4 hour interrogation by 2 detectives whose approach could only be described as "You are presumed guilty until we can prove you are guilty, even if we have to 'sex up the dossier' or manufacture new evidence if none can be found".

Fortunately I had a capable lawyer to represent me and my other resident lodger - also female - gave a very positive record of my observed behaviour over the previous 1.5 years. The Police decided not to proceed with formally charging me, and warned me that my case would be kept on file - including my DNA - for further investigation at any time in the future. I was warned not to do again what it had not been proved I had done in the past.

The impact on my life has been horrendous. Think for a moment how the loss of ALL of your computers and media, all your other IT & photographic kit would affect your life.

Think what effect the presence of 2 police vans and 3 police cars outside your house for a whole day, with officers trooping out carrying armfuls of evidence bags, has on your reputation with your neighbours and the likelihood that you can continue to hold posts on various committees or continue your voluntary work

Think about how CRB checks will affect your future employment prospects or the risk of future false allegations.

Think about the risk of wrongful use of DNA and the fact that DNA tagging is not foolproof.

Now compare that to the compensation you are likely to be offered by the Police/Government. Not a balance that seems to meet the criteria of 'natural human justice' is it? Not what you expect from a civilised society is it?

Who got our country into this mess?

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Flame

Sue the bitch

Any chance you can sue the bitch for damage to your reputation? Even if it costs you the earth to do so, it would be worth it to discourage this sort of abuse of the system by others -- benefitting the REAL victims of abuse whose fight for justice is seriously damaged by idiots who bring baseless accusations solely for purposes of revenge.

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El

Turn about is fair play

So sue the bitch for filing a false police report!

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Silver badge

IT confiscation

Given you weren't charged, what are the rules on the obnoxious power-tripping f*ckheads giving back what isn't theirs and clearly isn't evidence?

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Unhappy

This happened to me

Someone who doesnt like my family twice made false allegations against me. Not only was I arrested, but they tried to arrange for me to be arrested at work in front of the maximum number of witness's; why else call me into work when I was on holiday??

As above, absolutely no evidence against me, but they will not say I didnt do it, only that they "do not have enough evidence to proceed".

Nearly 7 months to get my computers back and no reply to my complaint about missing items; I will put a reminder in when I make a claim for the damaged computer case and the broken hard drive, but I wont hold my breath.

And still no answer about why they felt the needed to take and keep my car keys.

The Police are wankers, do not co-operate with them, no matter how innocent you are. Even a FOI demand to see what the accusation was has resulted in a sheet of paper with everything blanked out.

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Silver badge

Sue, schmue

Making a false allegation should be a criminal offence (actually, it probably is). And making a false allegation *of a sexual offence* should be treated as a sexual offence (including being put on that register); because when all things are said and done, a false allegation of rape does not cause the victim and their nearest and dearest one iota less harm than actually being raped would.

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Anonymous Coward

"Level One" images of child sexual abuse?

Looks more like art to me.

My parents have a picture of me when I was a baby sitting naked on a toy horse.

I have now phoned the police and will get them locked up as they are obviously monster pedos and should be on a register or something like that.

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If you fancy life on the edge ...

Look at Caravaggio's 'Love Triumphant'.

It's been considered a great work of art for hundreds of years. By today's standards, just viewing the pic over the internet should be good for about three years at Her Majesty's pleasure.

Of course, we could go back and retrofit all such pictures with fig leaves. It's a tried and trusted technique.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Happy

So how many people here

watched that BBC documentary about the fig leaf? Seems that the sentiments are in part influenced by it

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Anonymous Coward

heh

And this is why lords are so essential, the rest of the state mechanism is a joke.

What would those nappy adverts be described as?

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The mind boggles.

and The Law is an ass ...

No, I take that back. "Boggles" is the only word for it ...

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Close ... but not quite there.

The law was proved not to be an ass - this bloke is out, albeit with a reputation tarnished forever. The ass here was the incompetent, target chasing police (again), and the CPS which is filled with people with 2:2 law degrees from the University of Does-that -place-actually-have-a-university? We have allowed those in charge of prosecutions to come from such a low level of education and innate common sense that we, as a population, are no longer safe from those that are supposed to protect us. Fortunately, more judges are stepping up to the challenge, and delivering judgments like this.

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Silver badge

Hmm.

When I started typing this comment, I was going to blow steam about wastes of money, don't the police have better things to do...

And then I realised that for some reason I was surprised when a terribly poorly drafted piece of legislation, with more loopholes than a drift net, where the actual parameters of the offence are written in nebulous prose, and any attempt to clarify the law with the legislature and judiciary is met with no response, causes the already overstretched courts to have to deal with non-crimes, and have caused an innocent person to be given the stigma of paedophilia.

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Thumb Up

But think of the children!... No, not like that, you filthy beast!

This sounds like a case of the judiciary making the most sensible decision given the situation. If the CPS don't have the balls to go after the publishers and make a proper & consistent case against the dissemination of this material, they can't expect to be able to go after random individuals who buy it legally in a high-street shop.

I'm quite glad to hear that at least one judge is taking this view, because as the owner of a whole bunch of Alan Moore comics (which includes Lost Girls) I've been concerned about the ease with which some of the stuff I've bought entirely legally in various UK bookshops could be viewed and treated as child abuse material...

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WTF?

Beyond belief

Our glorious 'extreme pornography' bill has exclusions for works of art and BBFC-rated films. If the CPS are prepared to prosecute over what someone can buy in Waterstones, does this mean those exceptions are null and void now?

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