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The BBC's Doug Morris
"A sign of the pervasive nature of the internet"
 real 28k

Monday, 14 May, 2001, 17:32 GMT 18:32 UK
Boy placed on sex offenders' register

A 13-year-old boy has been put on the sex offenders' register for two-and-a-half years for having more than 300 pornographic images of children on his home computer.

The teenager was given an 18-month supervision order on condition he attends a rehabilitation course after admitting nine charges of possessing indecent images of children.

A total of 326 images featuring young children as well as half a dozen images involving a baby were found on the hard drive of the boy's computer.

It is a disturbing case in that someone as young as you was so readily able to get access to this type of material

Judge James Prowse
District Judge James Prowse, sitting at Teesside Youth Court, said that the boy from Thornaby, Stockton-on-Tees, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had become an "unwitting victim" in an internet ring peddling child pornography.

The teenager spoke in court only to confirm his name, address and to accept his sentence.

The court heard he had initially logged onto an internet chatroom in search of teenage girls of a similar age.

National operation

He soon became embroiled in a sordid trade of pornographic images after logging on using an obscene pseudonym.

Officers from Greater Manchester Police monitored the chatroom as part of a four-month national operation codenamed Operation Appal which has led to more than 30 arrests nationwide.

Cleveland Police officers raided the young boy's home expecting to find an adult paedophile, the court heard, and were surprised to find that the child was involved.

After sentencing, a spokesman for Cleveland Police said the 13-year-old was the youngest person in the force area to be placed on the sex offenders' register.

'Unwitting victim'

Mr Prowse said: "It is a disturbing case in that someone as young as you was so readily able to get access to this type of material, not just photos of girls of young age, but children engaging in thoroughly indecent acts.

"You yourself became an unwitting victim of the pornography that is available on the internet to be peddled."

Mr Prowse accepted evidence that the teenager had downloaded large batches of images without knowing the exact content in his efforts to find pictures of girls his age.

All the indications are you are being well brought up in a secure family environment

District Judge Prowse
He said that the boy would not necessarily have chosen all the pictures he actually downloaded had the choice been available.

He ordered the hard drive on the boy's computer be destroyed, but allowed the rest of the equipment to be returned to the family.

The magistrate ordered that 83 prosecution costs be paid within 28 days.

He declined the opportunity to place a binding order on the parents, saying: "All the indications are you are being well brought up in a secure family environment."

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16 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Straw rules out sex register law
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