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Tuesday, 13 February, 2001, 18:09 GMT
Child pornographers sentenced
A van drives the seven convicted men to court today
Seven men have been convicted of conspiring to distribute indecent images of children
Child care campaigners have reacted with outrage to the sentences imposed this afternoon on seven men who were part of the world's biggest known child pornography ring. The men pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to distribute indecent images of children.

David Hines, of Bognor Regis
Hines: sentenced to 30 months

Dr Michelle Elliott, director of Kidscape said: "You would get a longer sentence for accumulating masses of parking tickets or for burglary."

David Hines, of Bognor Regis in West Sussex and Ian Baldock, of St Leonards in East Sussex were sentenced to thirty months each.

Ian Baldock, of St Leonards
Baldock: sentenced to 30 months

Ahmed Ali of Tulse Hill, South London; Andrew Barlow of Milton Keynes and Gavin Seagars of Dartford in Kent: two years each.

Frederick Stevens of Hayes, West London: twelve months and Antoni Skinner of Cheltenham: eighteen months in jail.

Baldock and Hines were placed on the sex offenders register for life because of their greater role in the gang's crimes.

Largest internet child pornography ring

Ahmed Ali of Tulse Hill, South London
Ali: sentenced to 24 months

The convicted men were members of a child pornography ring called "The Wonderland Club", named after Lewis Carroll's book "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland".

They admitted using the internet to swop thousands of pornographic picture of children, including young babies. A total of 750,000 pictures were seized by police as part of the operation to bring the men to trial.

Andrew Barlow, of Milton Keynes
Barlow: sentenced to 24 months

In order to join the Wonderland Club, potential members had to provide 10,000 new indecent pictures of children. All of the children involved were under the age of 16 and in one case the child was only three months old.

Reaction to the case

Passing sentence at Kingston Crown Court, Judge Kenneth Macrae told the seven men: "You directly or indirectly exploited the most vulnerable in our society. Children represent the future. They should be cared for and protected."

Gavin Seagars, of Dartford
Seagars: sentenced to 24 months

The question child care charities are asking once again is whether there are enough safeguards to stop this happening again, and whether the new legislation is sufficient to deal with this sort of pornography on the internet.

The man responsible for co-ordinating the world-wide police operation leading to today's sentencing - Detective Superintendent Peter Spindler of the National Crime Squad - gave his reaction to the convictions:

Antoni Skinner, of Cheltenham
Skinner: sentenced to 18 months

"It's a great relief to conclude what's been a very long operation...We can combat crime on the internet. We won't tolerate child pornography in the UK. If anybody thinks that in a modern, civilised society that a sexual preference for children is acceptable, then they're wrong. And the prison sentences in the future will be three times as long as they've been today".

New legislation

A bill now before parliament will increase the maximum sentence for offences relating to child pornography to 10 years.

But is enough being done to prevent another paedophile ring like this preying on more children?

Frederick Stephens, of Hayes, West London
Stephens: sentenced to 12 months

PM spoke to the Home Office Minister, Lord Bassam, who undertook to ensure that police powers keep pace with developments on the internet.

We also spoke to Ruth Dixon, deputy chief executive of the Internet Watch Foundation, and to Annie Mullen who speaks for the Children's Charities Coalition on Child Safety on the Internet.

Annie Mullen said she was disappointed in the sentences and that internet service providers could do more to protect children by controlling chat sites and monitoring the internet more closely.

Ruth Dixon told us that the internet must not be seen as a safe, anonymous haven for people to do what they like.

Click here to listen to Richard Myron's report on the case
Lord Bassam, Home Office Minister
"We must constantly keep under review our legislation and our powers"
Click here to listen to the discussion between Ruth Dixon and Annie Mullen

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