CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 October 2018

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Police win against online child abusers

Police in many nations that are fighting back against the paedophiles who sexually exploit children online are having remarkable success. 
 
Paedophiles and child pornographers, despite hiding on the dark web and using encryption software, are being caught in increasing numbers. They abuse children online and send thousands of pictures of them each other over the Internet. 
 
This incites and arouses paedophiles to go out into the real world in their own countries and elsewhere and look for more children to sexually abuse.
 
Filipino children only six or seven years old were brought to an Internet cybersex den where they were sexually abused live on camera for the pleasure and satisfaction of 53-year -old Dwayne Stinsion, from the eastern district of Virginia, the United States of America (US). 
 
He paid women by electronic money transfer to abuse the children. He has pleaded guilty to the crime of making child pornography taking screen photos of the abuse and saving them on his computer. He will be sentenced in August this year. 
 
The Philippine police did not find the women. They are operating in a highly sexualised society where sex bars and cybersex dens operate with impunity and have government licenses.
 
Matthew Horan of St. John’s Estate, Clondalkin, Dublin, Ireland was arrested and jailed earlier this year. A convicted paedophile who sexually exploited young Irish and American girls over the Internet some as young as nine years old, he was sentenced to seven and a half years with two years suspended if he abides by certain court instructions. Thousands of images of children being sexually abused were found in his home. In the future, the instructions will hopefully include a ban on travel abroad if the new amendments to the Irish Sexual Offenses Law are enacted.
 
In the Philippines, a US national pleaded guilty to child abuse charges and human trafficking after he was arrested and brought to court four and a half years ago. The Preda Foundation assisted the victims in getting justice. He may be charged in the United States under extraterritorial law.
 
Last December 2017, as many as 200 paedophiles abusing children online were arrested by the National Crime Agency (NCA) of the United Kingdom. Two hundred and fifty victims were identified. They were being groomed and trapped by the paedophiles who posed as teenagers online. They enticed their teenage victims to send them sexually explicit photos of themselves and used them to get more and blackmailed the children by threatening to post the images on Facebook or elsewhere.
 
Last September, 32-year-old Paul Leighton, from Seaham, County Durham, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for child rape that happened thousands of kilometres away. He tricked a 14-year-old boy into sending naked photos of himself and then he blackmailed the boy into repeatedly sexually abusing his one-year-old niece online. The boy was charged by the police. 
 
Leighton told police that he enjoyed the total power he had over his victims of which there were many more in Australia, Canada, the US and the UK.
 
According to the NCA director, Will Kerr, says that as many as 400 suspects are arrested every month for sending child pornography images over the Internet. Civilian child protectors are using the tactics of the paedophiles against them, which is leading to more arrests. Some police forces are accepting the evidence gathered by civilian paedophile hunters who pose as young teenagers online and lure paedophiles to engage in grooming them. Then, they turn the recorded evidence of a crime be it an e-mail or chats, or other gathered information to the police. In the UK, research by the BBC found that 150 suspects were investigated by police using information provided by the hunters. Police are increasingly using the information to make their own investigations and make arrests.
 
However, some of the hunters are more aggressive identifying the suspects themselves and confronting them face-to-face and exposing them on Facebook Live. This is very dangerous and risky. Suspects, when confronted, may become violent and such encounters ought to be left to the police. 
 
Parents are careless also in photographing their own children in the bathtub, or naked on the beach or by the pool and posting them on the social media for all to see. Paedophiles will have access to these pictures and might even target them. Children should have the right to their privacy, too.
 
It is prevention that will prove most effective to curb child abuse over the Internet. Parents above all must be vigilant in protecting the rights and dignity of their children online. They must teach their children never to start a relationship online that they cannot physically or otherwise verify the identity of the person.
 
Children should never send photographs of themselves to any stranger they meet online or ever meet with them alone. Many young people are compromised and extortion follows threats to expose them on social media. Some have committed suicide. Young people and parents ought to have trust and share information and report suspects to the police.
 
 

 
Father Shay Cullen
www.preda.org