Civil servants sacked over Net porn

One conviction, 16 sackings and over 200 disciplined

More than 200 civil servants in the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have been disciplined for surfing the Web for porn during office hours. In the last eight months the staff accessed over two million pornographic images, including 18,000 involving child abuse.

The Sun newspaper reports that some of the sites touted images purported to be of kids as young as 13.

So far, 16 workers have been sacked as a result of the sting operation, which began in December last year. One worker has been convicted on 32 counts of possessing child pornography, and two others are under investigation.

However, the Liberal Democrats want all 227 of the offending bureaucrats to be dismissed.

Party spokesman Steve Webb said that by accessing the porn, the civil servants involved were "assisting filth and paedophiles", according to the BBC. He said that such activity is a security risk, and called for "a zero tolerance approach".

Peter Robbins, CEO of the Internet Watch Foundation said that the case reinforced the need for companies to have clear, and specific, acceptable use policies. He argued that companies also have a duty to explain these policies to staff on a regular basis, particularly regarding child pornography.

"Every time someone views this type of illegal content, they are not only breaking the law, but are condoning the abuse of children and sustaining the demand for the creation of such images," he said.

A spokesman for the DWP said that the department kept a close eye on its staff's surfing habits. "When monitoring proves such use on one of its computers, disciplinary action will be taken and may well lead to criminal prosecution," he said.

He added that more often than not, the investigations into inappropriate Web use found that staff had inadvertently followed links to the porn sites from elsewhere on the Web.

Shadow secretary of state for work and pensions David Willetts argues that even allowing for accidental viewings, the investigation had revealed a serious problem with Internet abuse. ®

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