UK Net pedo jailed for eight years

Chatroom issues raises ugly head again

A UK man, inappropriately named Lawrence Horn, has been jailed for eight years after trying to seduce a 14-year-old boy in an Internet chatroom.

The 14-year-old was in fact detective Mark Bucci from Philadelphia in the States who was working under the pseudonymn Justin. Mr Horn, 35 from near Ashford in Kent, held numerous conversations with "Justin" which became increasingly sexually graphic.

He tried to persuade Justin to come to England on a student exchange, saying he would like to meet him; offered to help him with his homework; and sent a variety of indecent photos to him, suggesting he took pictures of himself in the same positions.

Mr Horn was setenced over eight charges of distributing indecent photos and to 17 of making indecent images. The illegal photos he sent to Justin were evidence enough for police to raid his house and there they found 662 images, 500 of which featured children being abused by other children or adults.

Mr Horn was not caught up in controversial new laws that the Home Office was planning to have passed by now in reaction to a huge paedophile scare earlier this year. At the time, a number of "celebrities", backed up by alarmist press, painted a picture in which all children were at constant and immediate risk of "grooming" by paedophiles if they entered a chatroom.

The laws, heavily trailed in the press before being officially announced in May and then included in the Queen's Speech* in July, aimed to make it a jailable offence for someone to pose as a teenager in Internet chatrooms.

The legislation was widely criticised as unworkable by government sources, the police and civil liberties groups, but the Home Office appeared determined to pass them. After Jack Straw was replaced as Home Secretary by the more rational David Blunkett, the plans still made it into the Queen's Speech but appear to have been dropped since then - to the benefit of all Internet users.

The case, while relying on the sending of illegal pictures, appears to demonstrate that existing laws are sufficient in dealing with Net paedophiles. Judge David Croft QC said in his judgment that the crimes were compounded because he had been trying to corrupt a 14-year-old boy.

Mr Horn's defence was that he had become isolated while looking after his mother. He was put on the sex offenders register for 10 years. ®

* The Queen's Speech takes place at the start of each new term of Parliament or after an election. It is basically a list of legislation that the government hopes to get through. While read by the Queen, the government writes the speech for her.

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