Saturday, July 4, 1998 Published at 06:18 GMT 07:18 UK
Police crack Net porn
Internet: Pornographers used it "with impunity"
Police in the UK investigating child pornography on the Internet say they have a new weapon in their armoury which could help turn the tide against paedophiles.
Detective Inspector David Davis of West Midlands Police has written an expert guide for officers showing them how to track down hardcore illegal pornography on the Internet - and how to discover who is behind it.
For years criminals have masked their activities because they had become far more skilled in using the Internet and related technologies than police forces, said Mr Davis.
Police officers investigating paedophiles had discovered child porn was being downloaded from the Internet.
"We said: Internet - what's that?" said Mr Davis.
As the police began to delve deeper into the murky world of Internet porn, they realised that criminal networks were exploiting technologies the average officer was only just hearing about.
"They (the pornographers) could talk about things, swap things, almost with impunity in the early days," said Mr Davis.
Mr Davis said he believed that organised crime is using the Internet to communicate.
The encryption industry and civil liberty groups are currently fighting European Union proposals to give security forces access to personal Internet encryption.
But Mr Davis said: "Organised criminals know normal phones can be tapped, they know mobile analogue phones can be tapped, and there's a lot of talk about digital mobile phones being tapped, so they're moving to using (the Internet)."
In its first year of operation, the industry funded Internet Watch Foundation removed almost 2,000 images from the World Wide Web following 781 reports from the public - 95% of the items linked to paedophilia.
The IWF believes that up to 6% of paedophilia on the Internet originates from UK websites while 63% comes from the US and 19% from Japan.
Earlier this year a UK judge described material on the Internet as "unwholesome and unnecessary filth" after 21-year-old student Timothy Spring, of Preston was convicted of publishing obscene material.