Parents plant spyware to snare sex predator
Court sin-bins ice hockey coach
A 38-year-old Briton has been jailed for an underage sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl after her father uncovered evidence by planting monitoring software on her PC.
Nicholas Lovell, from Guildford, Surrey, coached the teenager while working as an ice hockey teacher in 2006. The relationship between the two raised earlier concerns and Lovell agreed to sign an agreement with police preventing him from contacting the girl, whose identity is being withheld.
The girl's parents remained concerned, especially when she became more withdrawn and started to lie about her movements, leading them into deciding to install a monitoring program called WebWatcher on her computer. The software recorded email and IM conversations between Lovell and the girl, providing enough evidence for police to arrest Lovell for breaking his agreement to stay away from the youngster.
Lovell stood trial on child abuse offences at Reading Crown Court. He denied the offences but a jury found him guilty on five counts of sexual activity with a child, leading to a four-and-a-half-year sentence, according to local reports. The girl has undergone counselling. After initial anger with her parents over their actions, she now accepts that they acted in her best interests. ®
A Parent's Job.
I have a story to relate that goes back to before home computers were common... probably in the late-1980's. My wife's foster sister had a daughter (only child) who, at the age of about _14_, ran off with her high school teacher, probably in his late 20's. The teacher played on the daughter's age and naivety to convince her to leave with him. Sister searched for years trying to find her, unsuccessfully.
Finally, around 2004, she found the daughter. Or rather found the record that the teacher had killed her daughter in Arizona about a year after they left Northern California. The only thing she could do by then was have her remains returned to the Bay Area. The teacher is in prison for (hopefully) life. Of course, he wasn't teaching in Arizona, because that would have required using his real name, and AZ would have found out that he was wanted in CA on a number of charges such as kidnapping and sexual misconduct.
I was much more fortunate with my daughter... she rarely used the computer and it was always in the family room. She did marry at 19, but is still married to the same guy 14 years later and has two beautiful daughters
Look at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/berkshire/7594801.stm
> "Most likely"? Got any proof of that? <
I'm disappointed that since you are a lot closer to the action than I am, you did not look at other sources to refute my assumption. You made an assumption that the parents snooped immediately and it was the only thing they decided to do, and my assumption was the opposite. The Reg article can be interpreted either way. Even the BBC article, which has more details, still cannot refute either your or my assumption. So if you have any clear proof, show it.
> "We don't trust you, so we're going to spy on you for your own protection". Hmm, sounds familiar, do you work for the Government...?!
The point is, however, there are better ways of doing this than installing spyware on your child's computer. <
First of all, what does this have to do with the "government?" Don't distract the debate.
Fundamentally, I agree that there are other initial approaches to manage your child. However, I still believe that the spyware was of last resort since the child was quite under control of this pervert and she was lying to her parents before the spyware was installed (see the section after "Invading her privacy" in the BBC article).
> This was in the UK, not the US.<
And your point being? May be you can educate me and the readers on the legal definition of juvenile there?
>Is that the child trusting the parent or the parent trusting the child?! And how about a little *respect* from both sides? <
As stated earlier, this situation appeared to be beyond the trust and respect level. The child was being manipulated by this pervert, and the parents were losing control. Something had to be done to break this link, and I believe no amount of chit-chat was going to make any difference at this stage. Now, if the whole situation could be rewound to 2005, I believe the parents should have done exactly what you stated and the spyware route could have been avoided.
>So the parent *guides* the child and *teaches* them. They don't *snoop* on them. <
Again fundamentally, I agree. However, I do not believe this was even possible for this particular situation at this specific timeframe.
> And your Point 4 sounds like classic "Won't someone think of the children!" hyperbole. <
Huh? If you're going to smoke that stuff while typing, at least you should share with the rest of us...
Do you remember about the teenage girl in the US who committed suicide after being "dumped" by her boyfriend in MySpace, and come to find out that it was an adult neighbor who was causing the "grief"? (http://www.boston.com/business/technology/articles/2007/11/26/girls_suicide_after_online_chats_leaves_a_town_in_shock/) That was basically point #4. IMHO, unless parents are proactive in managing their children, situations like this will continue to occur. What the parents did with using spyware was definitely drastic and personally would not be my first choice as a parenting tool, but it was still a lot more proactive than doing nothing.
To those who suggested the parents could have planted the stuff on the computer, WebWatcherNow records it all remotely with no 'visible' software on the machine (proxy forwarding perhaps? And no guarantee who's actually siting at the PC). So you are handing over all of this very sensitive information to a third party that isn't even covered by UK law. Consider that also includes screenshots that can be played back like a video and this could then effectively record webcam sessions between said 15 and 38 year-old... That's a lot of trust to place in this third party offshore company.
I use UltraVNC myself which I made my teen aware of when she asked for help with a problem on the computer and I fixed it infront of her remotely - this was not long after I installed it. I saw the light-bulb go on and pointed out 'yes I can see everything you do if I need to'.
She has limited user rights on the computer. ZoneAlarm Security Suite parental controls limit her web activity. And I have a PACproxy script that blocks extra sites - numerous web messengers, proxy bypass sites, all but the main social networking sites etc (I found one SN site that will allow anyone of any age to seach for anyone 9+ - needless to say I blocked it).
She uses MSN and the conversation recording is on (and gets switched back on if she switches it off). And I've spoken to her about MSN Messenger safety in particular.
There's only so much you can do though.