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Wednesday, 14 February, 2001, 09:27 GMT
Wonderland sentences a 'joke'
BBC montage
Club members 'paid' an entry fee of 10,000 images
Child rights groups in the UK have criticised the Wonderland Club jail sentences as a "joke" which sends out the wrong message to paedophiles.

Seven British men, who peddled child pornography on the internet, were jailed for between 12 and 30 months each on Tuesday.

Under laws applying at the time the men were charged, the maximum jail term for each was three years.


You would get a longer sentence for accumulating masses of parking tickets

Dr Michelle Elliott
Kidscape
But a coalition of seven UK charities including the NSPCC, Barnardo's, ChildLine, the Children's Society, the National Children's Bureau, the NCH and the NCVCCO have said they are "deeply disappointed" by the sentences.

The charities had hoped for longer jail terms under legislation introduced last year, which raised the maximum sentence for offences relating to the possession of child pornography to ten years.

"Child sex abuse is always a serious issue, but this sentencing sends out a contrary message to child sex offenders who use the internet," said NCH internet consultant John Carr.

"We viewed the change in the law as a recognition that these offences pose a very serious threat to the safety of children," he said.

While praising the efforts of police in tackling internet crime and child sex abuse, he said the sentences would mean that paedophiles would continue to thrive on the web.

Gavin Seagers,
Sea Cadets youth leader Seagers was jailed for two years.
Director of the child protection charity Kidscape, Dr Michelle Elliott, said: "You would get a longer sentence for accumulating masses of parking tickets or for burglary.

"I am absolutely stupefied by this leniency. It sends a clear message that these crimes are not being taken seriously."

But Detective Chief Inspector Alex Wood said police had expected the sentences, as the judge had to give credit for the men pleading guilty and sparing the time and expense of a trial.

He said their ground-breaking investigation had brought forward changes in policing of paedophiles and legislation around the world, including the UK's tougher stance.

"Paedophiles appearing in court today will receive much more severe sentences because of this legislation," he said.

International operation

The Wonderland Club paedophile ring was smashed by Operation Cathedral, the largest international operation to be co-ordinated by the National Crime Squad in London.

Raids were staged around the world on 2 September 1998, leading to 107 arrests across the UK, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and the United States.

David Hines
David Hines traded thousands of pictures
An enormous amount of pictures were uncovered from the defendants' homes, as well as computerised videos depicting children suffering degrading sexual abuse.

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."

Convictions

Ian Baldock, 31, from St Leonards, East Sussex was jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Antoni Skinner, 36, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire was jailed for 18 months.

Gavin Seagers, 29, a Sea Cadets youth leader, from Dartford, Kent was jailed for two years.

Ahmet Ali, 30, from Tulse Hill, south London, was jailed for two years.

Frederick Stephens, 46, from Hayes, west London, was jailed for a year.

Andrew Barlow, 25, from Bletchley, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, was jailed for two years.

David Hines, 30, of Bognor Regis, West Sussex was jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Baldock and Hines were placed on the sex offenders' register for life. The others were ordered to be kept on the register for seven years.

All of the children involved were under the age of 16 and in one case the child was only three months.

More than 1,263 children were featured in the pictures - but only 17 have been identified - six in the UK, seven in the United States, one in Portugal, one in Chile, and one in Argentina.

An album has been created and posted on Interpol's website to help police forces from around the world trace the victims of abuse.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Crime Correspondent, Stephen Cape
"There were 750,000 images of abused children discovered"
John Carr, Internet Security Adviser
"Catching them had nothing to do with the internet"
Ray Wyre, Sexual Crimes Consultant
"These men are going to do it again"
Seven Brtions sentenced for their part of child porn internet ring

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