back to article Parents plant spyware to snare sex predator

A 38-year-old Briton has been jailed for an underage sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl after her father uncovered evidence by planting monitoring software on her PC. Nicholas Lovell, from Guildford, Surrey, coached the teenager while working as an ice hockey teacher in 2006. The relationship between the two raised …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Counselling

    I don't know why, but when I read that she'd recieved counselling and now accepts her parents did what was best for her I think of the line "But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother."

    Huh.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Alien

    What!

    Great... now it's okay for parents to monitor their child's activities "in their best interests" and, of course, "if they've done nothing wrong then they have nothing to hide". I can only look forward to the day when all of my activity is monitored and held in a database so that I can feel protected.

    I for one welcome our activity monitoring overlords.

  3. Ray
    Paris Hilton

    argh...

    so, one more paed behind bars. well done? there's a serious question of morality here, i feel...

    although i understand *why* the parents did what they did, i can't help feeling that their actions are not a great example for the child, viz. it's okay to do something behind someone's back as long as it's in their own "interest".

    one can never know the ins and outs of another family's life but there must be better ways to catch a guy than lying to and spying on the victim (who also happens to be your own child...)

    paris, coz if i'm confused about this...

  4. Ted Treen
    Dead Vulture

    Good stuff

    Glad the child saw sense and is (hopefully) no longer p'ed off with Mum and Dad. Whilst I'm normally anti-surveillance, I think in this instance Ma & Pa were right.

    I'm just surprised that NuLab's tame Plod passed up on the chance to arrest & crucify the parents (par for the course).

    I'm sure Cherie's beloved-by-all Human Rights Act contains a multitude of provisions under which they could have acted, with a little effort & initiative.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    ok, let me get this straight

    it's NOT ok to spy on your own kids whilst you're raising them and trying to make sure they stay on the straight and narrow? Erm, sorry...if it was my sprog I would have been spying if I had been suspicious, but I sure would have neutered that coach and left the parts of him in 42 counties.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    @Ray (& A/C)

    So you're upset that the parents spied on their child. So you're upset that parents, who thought their child was in danger, actually took some responsibility and acted to protect their child.

    There is a *huge* difference between spying on a grown adult for dropping a chocolate wrapper in the wrong place, and spying on a vulnerable person (e.g. child or someone with learning difficulties) because it is strongly suspected that they are in grave danger.

    There are often comments about parents not bothering to understand what their children are doing on computers that the one time a parent *does* take an interest, you criticise the parent.

    The spying on people debate is not a black & white issue. Each instance needs to be looked at separately and judged on it's merits, and I vote that spying on a child to catch a paedo is well near the top of the list of acceptable things to do.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Parents Job!!!!!

    My children (who are very young) will grow up knowing that we as the parents will have full access to everything they do on a computer (e-mail, chat rooms, IM everything) until the age of 17.

    They will be told this repeatedly throughout their life, so it will not be a big suprise to them if a little snooping takes place or if monitoring software needs to be installed because we as her parents suspect something is wrong.

    The reason for this..... IT IS OUR JOB AS THEIR PARENTS.

    matchbx

  8. Pie
    Paris Hilton

    As soon as my children are 10

    I'll be getting them to sign a document that clearly states there computer/internet usage may be monitored and recorded...

  9. Dr. Mouse Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    I don't know...

    ... why people are p'ed off about this.

    Parents regularly interfere in their children's lives. It's in the job description. And it's right. Kids should slowly have the leash let out untill they are grown up and fly the nest.

    If you think this was wrong, wheres the difference between that and, say, searching the kids room for drugs because they have been acting suspiciously? Or checking that they have done their homework by a quick rummage through their school bag? It has been done by parents since the beginning of time, and parents NOT doing it is part of the reason we have so many little scroats on the streat now (that and the govt taking away all the parents rights to punish their kids.)

  10. Simpson

    @everyone

    I had no idea that the reg had so many readers who still live with their parents (or are 15).

    "now it's okay for parents to monitor their child's activities "in their best interests""

    Yes. The computer is most likely the property of the parents. These are Parents, not the government... Parents generally do love their children and do act "in their best interests".

    Be more concerned with the cameras in your streets. Your parents (generally) are not out to get you, or trying to ruin your life.

    Waiting for the reg article about 8yr old being sent to room (by parents) for using foul language... Then the comments regarding: false imprisonment, tyranny, lack of a trial, where's the appeal process, violation of the 8yro's freedom of speech, etc.

    Perhaps the gov should put cameras in all homes, to make sure that parents are not out of line.

  11. Keller Drozdick

    Misplaced spy concerns

    I am completely against government monitoring activities, and am regularly shocked at what I see happening in the UK (I'm a 'merkin, so we've got our own issues to deal with here...).

    But, the girl was 15. I'm not saying it's ok to monitor all activities of a 15 year-old covertly, but it is the job of parents to monitor their kids to keep them safe, as well as to, over time, teach them to live on their own without monitoring. Anyone have a problem with parents monitoring, overtly or covertly, the computer use of an 8 year-old? Or the use of scissors by a 4 year-old?

    I don't know the specifics of the situation, but I see nothing in the story that looks like the parents were using appropriate montioring, and on the face of it their actions were reasonable. They appear to only have acted AFTER they had very reasonable grounds to suspect their underage (I assume for the UK) daughter was in a relationship with someone in appropriately older.

    (anonymouns 'cause I don't want my daughter finding this post :-)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Computers for underage children .......

    Should never be in their bedroom but in the main family room. This stops Dad going onto dodgy sites as well.

    Paris, because if all computers could be viewed by other members of the household her videos would never have been seen.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's always been ok to monitor your child

    All parents do it all the time. If technology help the child to dissemble, it also helps the parents monitor. As long as she's under 16 (or whatever your local laws state) it's entirely normal. In fact, if she was having an underage sexual relationship, the parents could be found guilty of neglect.

  14. ElFatbob

    @AC & Ray

    you're right - they should have left this pervert to carry on sh@gging their underage daughter.

    Couple of f!!cktards.

  15. John H Woods

    VNC

    I use VNC to monitor my 13yo step daughter. She knows it is installed and what it enables me to do (if she sees something cool she shouts me to look at it). Every now and then I view her desktop to see what she is up to. It is no different to getting up, going in the other room and looking over her shoulder - it just takes fewer calories.

    I can only assume that people who think the reported behaviour is unacceptable spying don't have kids. I don't let my kids wander around town on their own, and I don't let them wander round the net on their own either. When they are old enough to do the former, they can do the latter. If these parents had brought action against, say, a 17 year old boyfriend, that would have been a somewhat greyer area, but this was against a man who is nearly 40!

    The only times I am ever shocked rigid by my VNC 'spying' are when she is visiting Bebo pages of her friends. 13 yo boys who claim to be 17 and whose pages are titled 'English and Fukin Proud' or 'Shut up bitch, put it in your mouth and suck it'. 13 yo girls who pretty much look like they are trying their hardest to be jailbait, and who give away the full names and whereabouts of not only themselves but lots of their friends. Are the parents of these kids just conscientiously avoiding spying on their children or are they ignorant fuckwits who don't have a clue what their children are doing?

  16. matchbx
    Happy

    @ John Woods

    Love the VNC idea... I use VNC at work all the time, but it hasn't occured to me to use it at home. Maybe it's because my kids aren't old enough to use a computer alone yet. Thanks for the tip.

  17. Dave

    Monitoring

    Perhaps if more parents took the trouble to pay attention to what their children were doing, there would be less scope for the government to try to regulate and monitor all of us. If we're already thinking of the children then they won't be able to use that as an excuse for censorship.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: What!

    Yup, it was me what wrote it.

    I have no objection to parents monitoring their children's internet access if they are up-front about it; however, I do object to this monitoring being covert. Presumably her parents monitored activity that was not related to this criminal's activity - IMs and emails where their daughter could reasonably expect privacy and where there was no risk to her. Children should be supported, loved and protected by their parents - not deceived - even if it is "for her own good". What's wrong with being up-front and honest?

  19. Dan
    Paris Hilton

    Great... now it's okay for parents to monitor their child's activities

    Come to think of it, when i was a child playing in the street with friends, one of my parents would always be at the door/window keeping an eye on me.

    Oh the humanity! How will I ever overcome this invasion of my privacy?

    Paris, cos she's had her 'privacy' invaded once or twice.

  20. Andy

    Secrets and lies! Nothing but secrets and lies...

    So the mature, adult way they dealt with their daughter keeping secrets from them is to secretly monitor her? I wonder where she gets her duplicitous nature from...

    Keeping tabs on your child is fine, within reason, but doing it behind her back is not. If they don't trust her with a computer, they should talk to her about it; and if necessary she shouldn't have access to one outside of their supervision. Simple.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @The "Human Rights" Whingers

    As my old man used to say: "While you live under my roof..."

    He may as well have said "While you use my computer and my internet connection..."

    You have to wonder how daft the kid was, if she knew what she was doing was wrong you'd assume that she wouldn't have been daft enough to do it at home. Not that I'm advocating this sort of thing, but it would have been easy and cheap enough to buy a PAYG phone.

  22. Rick Giles
    Coat

    @Pie

    Why? You are the parent.

    -Mines the one with the "Because I said so!" sign in the pocket.

  23. Rick Giles
    Thumb Up

    @Dave

    Here! Here!

  24. Steve Kay
    Heart

    As the above commenters say

    Good on Mr Parent here. He took responsibility for his child's online activities.

    He didn't make it the state's problem.

    He didn't ask his local council to employ RIPA to protect his family.

    He did it all himself, and then let the authorities do their job.

    I'll raise a beer to this dude. He is - quite literally - "the Daddy".

  25. Pierre Silver badge

    Snooping vs raising

    Pah. Sounds like another couple of parents unable to establish trust and discuss things with their kid. Snooping (opening snail-mail, emails and IM sessions, reading diaries, etc., it's all the same) is the best way to make sure there will be no trust anytime soon. Way to raise a kid! If they think they solved a problem, they're in for a nasty surprise. The gal's 15, not 7, she's probably not stupid. She might say she understand (mostly to get rid of the pesky counselling), but I'd bet a small fortune that she's going to find a way to hide her subsequent activities, whatever they can be. And that she's not going to tell her parents anything "secret" in the next couple of years, either. Of course, I may very well be wrong, and communicating with a 15-yo girl is not always easy, but it seems they took a huge chance of "loosing" her just out of laziness.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Being a parent myself

    And given that my only child is a 12-year old girl, I must say that I feel for the parents in this case.

    Honestly I don't know what I'd do if my daughter started acting weird (and it's probably only a question of time, now !), but I'm sure of one thing : if my wife and I are suspicious of something as serious as underage sex, well God help the man who's guilty if I find him before the police does.

    I say the parents did their duty. She was already lying to them, so what were they to do ? If they had told her about the surveillance she would have gone out and done it anyway, finding a different way to stay in contact with her paedo, and he would never have been caught. What would have been gained that way ?

    It's a difficult situation, to be sure, and there is no sure recipe to bring things back to normal - if normal can actually exist again in the aftermath. But at least this way nobody died, life can go on for the innocent and the scum is where he belongs - probably getting all hot and bothered in the showers.

  27. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    may I suggest

    a swift search for 'ephebophilia' or 'hebephilia'. Definitions are important. Wouldn't defend the guy at all but it's a bit colloquial to refer to him as an actual 'paedo' under the circumstances.

    'Phebo? Could catch on.

  28. frymaster

    Re:Snooping vs raising

    The problem is that this is all theoretical. You're saying that if they'd done things in a certain way (that had less chance of sucess than just finding it out for themselves) it would have been a more moral and a better solution. Problem is you _can't_ know if discussing things would have worked, because we can't rewind time to find out.

    From the fact that there seems to be some previous history to this, I think the parents might be justified in acting that way, and they certainly have the right to.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Evidence?

    Second scenario: bloke has inappropriate relationship with this girl and is "let off" with a restraining order type thing rather than any real sentence. Parents are a bit miffed and so decide to frame him. Apparently, from the detail provided in the story, *all* the evidence against him comes from a computer under the complete control of the parents.

    I do hope the police were able to provide some sort of independent corroboration of his behaviour.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Spying on kids

    My kids know full well, Dad monitors their internet usage at home. They use the family computers in family areas where I can see the screen whenever I choose to walk in the room.

    My oldest also knows that I keep logs of websites etc that he chooses to visit and that if anything shows up that shouldn't be there, or if there's access in hours that he doesn't have permission to be on, he's in trouble.

    End of problems. Kids know that internet is not a toy, but all reasonable use is allowed. What ever happened to parents being responsible for their children's actions?

    I agree with the parents actions here. I just think they should have been open and honest with their daughter from day 1 - "your computer usage is monitored. use it responsibly."

  31. Andrew Moore Silver badge

    @Pierre

    'but it seems they took a huge chance of "loosing" her'

    Maybe they'll tighten her afterwards.

  32. Dave Bell

    Mixed feelings.

    Age-15 is where the snooping is getting difficult. If, as might have happened here, they could easily pick out the dodgy traffic, it's quite different from reading through everything.

    It's a time of transition, part child and part adult, and by that age the balancing is getting tricky.

    And previous events matter. It might have been pressure at school over academic performance, but the history was there.

    Mind you, I have enough sour memories of teachers that I wouldn't rule out school problems as a factor. Sex has the appeal of being something adults do.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In lots of minds here

    I mean it's good he got caught but not all parents who may want to monitor their children's internet connection are interested in the child's wellbeing. I can see a version of this which mysteriously disconnects Messenger whenever the child tries to confide in a friend that daddy touches her in bad ways.

    For now the ends justifies the means but the whole thing has a bad smell about it.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    15 years old, but what if....?

    I saw this on my local TV news the other day. The father only went back to the police when the girl sent a message saying she thinks she might be pregnant.

    The girl is 15, didn't say how close to 16 but made me wonder a few things...

    Like if she was 16, legally they're not doing anything wrong, but I bet the parents wouldn't be happy she's seeing a 38 year old... where do the parents stand then?

    Or what if the guy wasn't 38, but also 15 or 16, still illegal with a 15 year old girl but what happens then? That goes on all the time. Would he get charged and sentenced as a minor? I assume the parents would still have called the police as she's still having underage sex, regardless of the age of the guy.

    What if the guy was 18 and hence an adult, would we think differently to this story as he's only 3 years older than the girl, that's not much, but legally it doesn't matter if he's 18 or 38, would he have still got the same 4.5 year sentence?

    It seems odd to me how just 1 day, when she turns 16 on her birthday, can make all the difference between a 4.5 year jail sentence and everything being legal and ok.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Spying on Kids

    "My oldest also knows that I keep logs of websites etc that he chooses to visit ....."

    and that he choses to let you see the logs of?

  36. anarchic-teapot

    "What's wrong with being up-front and honest?"

    Dear AC

    If the text hadn't been obscured by your violent knee-jerk reaction (I do advise consulting a doctor before it gets even further out of hand), you would probably have noticed that the girl was being rather less than up-front and honest about things.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Unbelievable

    I can't even believe that there is a debate here over the fact the parents monitored the child and saved her. Obviously those that don't understand are either not parents, bad parents or they are pedophiles just like this jacka$$.

    I don't tell others what to do with their loved ones. I do believe that it is not only my right, but my responsibility as a father to ensure that my children do not get into life threatening or emotionally damaging situations. It is my job, and it's extremely important. I am their only father and if I don't do it, nobody else will.

    I use www.webwatchernow.com just as these people did and I will continue to do so until my children are of legal age and out of the home. It is a fantastic program and frankly I don't care what anyone else says, it's my life and I make the decisions. I don't monitor everything they do, but I use it to block offensive sites and guide them in the right direction.

    Do what you want with your own children, but don't even think about telling me what to do with mine.

  38. Herbys
    Thumb Up

    @15 years old, but what if....?

    All good points, but the guy knew that she was 15 and thus out of bounds. If he couldn't restrain for just one year, and had sex with her even if he knew that what he was doing was illegal, he is a dangerous person and it makes sense that he's in jail now.

  39. Graham Marsden

    @Unbelievable

    > I do believe that it is not only my right, but my responsibility as a father to ensure that my children do not get into life threatening or emotionally damaging situations.

    It is. But the point that some people are making (and that people like you are ignoring) is that this should be done *pro* actively, not *re* actively.

    Firstly ask yourself how come "The relationship between the two raised earlier concerns and Lovell agreed to sign an agreement with police preventing him from contacting the girl" and then ask yourself how come, subsequently, "she became more withdrawn and started to lie about her movements".

    Perhaps it was because the parents had not adequately taught their daughter what to watch out for and how to deal with this sort of situation? Maybe they just thought "oh well, she's in her room and she's being quiet, that's good enough for us"?

    If they already had grounds for concerns, why didn't they move her computer into a family space instead of deciding to snoop on her behind her back?

  40. Neoc
    Thumb Up

    Hands-on parenting.

    I'm all for parents being responsible with the children. Heck, I'd like to see parents responsible *for* their children - as in, if the child does something to bring him/her to the attention of the law, the parents get pulled in / punished *as well*.

    How quickly will parents take charge of their children's behaviour if they are held accountable for it?

    Bottom line - this girl was legally a ward of her parents which means they had every right to do what they did.

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  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a matter of trust.

    With any teenager - you need long-term trust there.

    If you don't, parental behavior like this causes much more damage than the offense in the first case.

    You need the kids to learn common sense - but you can never force the issue and resort to spying...

    I like the close-out statement, where she has counciling and has learned what she did was wrong... I'm reminded of the South Park episode about the Pane(t)arium. Apt here me thinks....

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kids are a liability

    I propose parents are taxed for having kids, something like 95% of their income.

    Then wrap the kiddiewinks up in cottonwool, and leave them in some sort of chryogenic status until they are 21.

    Problem solved.

  44. JC
    Paris Hilton

    It's not the monitoring that's the problem

    ... it's doing it in secret.

    Want to monitor your child? Go right ahead, just don't give them the expectation of privacy then betray that. Even if they had it, don't sneak around without telling them you will be monitoring from that point forward.

    Paris, because children are people too.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: may I suggest

    Sarah:

    "... 'ephebophilia' or 'hebephilia'. ...

    "'Phebo? Could catch on."

    BeboPhebo!

  46. Sam Radford
    Paris Hilton

    Reliant on technology

    I do feel that we are too reliant on technology now. In the old days, a damn good thrashing would have sorted out the daughter. She would have understood that continuing the relationship would lead to another very sore bottom. (Maybe I could have phrased that better.)

    Paris, because she knows the full meaning of "sore bottom".

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  48. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Maybe it's only me

    I know this will not sound entirely right, but..

    The entire age of consent deal seems to be rather arbitrary and non-uniform: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ages_of_consent_in_Europe . Note that most countries have 15 or even less as age of consent (13 in Spain, for instance).

    Albeit technically illegal (according to the UK law) I find it difficult to blame the guy.. at least until it will be illegal for teens below age of consent to advertise sex (short skirts, see-through clothes, etc.). If she advertised herself as being 'on the market', then, well, maybe the problem lies more in her education/environment/system. Ever thought about not letting her watch too much TV ?

    I also can't help by remember that back when I was a teenager, it was considered a matter of personal pride to still be a virgin at 18. Nowadays, with all the pop channels and teen culture focused on sex, that is no longer true.

    Maybe it's time we address the causes and not the effects.

    <--- Paris, we know why :)

  49. GF
    Thumb Up

    Parents are allowed to spy on their own kids...

    The first two AC comments ("Counselling" and "What!")are really stupid. These parents were being responsible for their own kid. Obviously, she was being brainwashed by the teacher, and it was the parents' job to protect their kid, even to the point of secretly monitoring her Internet access.

    Graham Marsden, the parents most likely had already taken the steps in trying to establish/maintain trust with their daughter. Since she started lying about her activities, it was time to take it to the next step ... monitoring her activities. If someone consistently lies to you about something, is that trust still there? No.

    Several items to consider:

    1. Anyone under the age of 18 years old (at least in the US) is a juvenile, and his or her actions and inactions is the responsibility of his or her parents. (At least that's the theory ... too many parents make excuses for having out-of-control kids, but that's another blog)

    2. The juvenile has no guarantee to privacy with his/her parents. Now, it would be very bad parenting to not provide an environment of trust where the juvenile should become a responsible family member, but that trust is earned, not given.

    3. The juvenile is not mature enough to think for him/herself, and there are legal definitions supporting this statement. Why do you think teenage drivers have more accidents than older adults? Because they act like morons but they think they are smart.

    4. If this relationship came to an end where the girl hitched up with the teacher, and she became pregnant (or worse, killed), is that better than the current situation where she was monitored by her parents? You tell me.

    As far as I am concerned, I support these parents for taking responsibility as parents to monitor and manage their kids.

  50. Steve Roper
    Stop

    Re: Evidence

    Let me add a further point to your statement there: "*all* the evidence against him comes from a computer under the complete control of the parents" - WHO KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT COMPUTERS to be able to install, configure and use a clandestine monitoring package.

    The fact that everyone else in this thread has ignored this very real issue is truly frightening. Consider this scenario: Vicious ex-wife wants ex-hubby out of the way for good. In divorce court she alleges that the father abused the child (I've witnessed enough divorce cases to know that "domestic violence / abuse" is a common pro-forma accusation by an ex-wife to assure her custody and maintenance). She then fabricates evidence on her kids' computers using exactly this kind of software, and uses it to have her ex-hubby put away for keeps. Unheard of? Well, I personally have seen some ex-wives of friends of mine go to some extraordinary lengths to corroborate their false accusations...

    Now maybe in this case the guy was in fact in an inappropriate relationship with the kid, but like AC above, I really do hope there was other evidence besides what was on the kid's computer. For example, did HIS computer contain evidence or records of his contact with the kid? Or what about the ISP logs? It would be interesting to see what evidence was actually used to obtain a conviction here.

    The mind boggles.

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