A Rugby man has been jailed for downloading child abuse images – after a judge rejected his explanation that a Russian hacker had been responsible as ‘utterly fanciful’.
John Smith had originally pleaded not guilty to seven charges of making indecent images of children, only admitting his guilt at a pre-trial hearing at Warwick Crown Court.
But he entered his pleas on the basis that he had no sexual interest in children, and had not searched for the images which must have ended up on his computer either recklessly or because of the actions of a Russian hacker.
That was rejected by Judge Philip Gregory, who jailed Smith (68) of Beswick Gardens, Rugby, for a year and ordered him to register as a sex offender for 10 years following a ‘trial of issue’ at Coventry Crown Court.
Prosecutor John O’Higgins said that after the police seized Smith’s computer tower and an external hard drive last year, they found a number of indecent images of children on them. There were a total of 70 movies in category A – the most serious category – and eight category B movies. In addition, there were 12 movies and 126 stills classed as being in level C.
Dc John Cook, from the West Mercia Police high-tech crime unit, told the court the images had been downloaded using peer-to-peer file-sharing software installed on Smith’s computer.
He told the court the files had names from which it would be apparent they related to sexual activity with children and that some of them had been moved and then deleted.
On the issue of whether Smith had been responsible, the officer said that searches took place at 3pm and 3.03pm on December 29, 2015. Only shortly before those times, it was accepted Smith was ‘John S’ who had been using the computer for an on-line chat.
Mr O’Higgins asked: “What about the defendant’s claim that he didn’t search for items, and that any searches were hacked into his computer?”
Dc Cook explained: “I found no evidence in the data that any person took control of that computer.”
Peter Cooper, defending, suggested it was not impossible for a computer to be hacked without there being any sign of it. But Dc Cook responded: “Nothing’s impossible. It’s highly improbable that I will walk on the moon, but it’s not impossible.”
Smith denied deliberately downloading the images or having any sexual interest in children or incest. He said he used the software to download films, music or drivers for discarded laptop computers, which he repaired and sold, and once he had carried out a search he would simply highlight the list of results and download them all.
Smith said when he opened the files and came across anything ‘unnecessary or abhorrent,’ he would move it and then delete it.
He said he ‘clicked on anything and everything,’ and asked why he continued to do so after seeing the type of material he was getting, he replied: “Because I’m not giving in to hackers. They’ve hacked into my email address, a chap in Russia.”
Rejecting Smith’s explanations, Judge Gregory said: “I have come to the conclusion that Mr Smith has not told me the truth, and I am satisfied these indecent images of children appeared on his computer as a consequence of searches deliberately undertaken by Mr Smith.”
Jailing him, Judge Gregory told Smith: “The fact that you engaged in this behaviour indicates at the very least that you had some form of sexual interest in children.
“You have shown precious little, if any, insight into the damage young children suffer as a consequence of being subjected to vile abuse of this nature.”