Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/06/10/ore_case/

Bates accuses porn cops of misleading public

Day of reckoning in Ore cases draws nearer

By Jane Fae Ozimek

Posted in Law, 10th June 2009 12:38 GMT

Jim Bates, once recognised as one of the country’s leading computer forensic experts, has made the extraordinary claim that senior police officers in Avon & Somerset and in the Met’s Child Exploitation Online Protection Team (CEOP) have deliberately stirred up and misled public opinion, in an effort to distract attention from a scandal that could soon engulf them.

In a statement to the Reg Bates says that he is now going public unwillingly, but that the level of misinformation being fed to the national media by Avon & Somerset Chief Constable Colin Port is so significant that he has little option but to provide some balance.

Bates expresses the view that despite a long and distinguished career as a witness for the prosecution, his growing concerns over the quality of police forensics work eventually led to his exclusion from the inner circle. This was followed by "intimidation and bullying by the police and some of their misguided supporters", leading eventually to his conviction for perjury in respect of his academic qualifications.

The current controversy hinges on the status of hard copy images and hard drives seized by Avon and Somerset Police in September 2008: last month a court ruled that the seizure had been illegal, and that the material should be returned, in part to Jim Bates, in part to independent experts.

This was followed by some very high profile media comment by the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset, to the effect that he would rather go to prison than hand the material over.

Bates now claims that he is "aware (and will prove) that those images had been "exhaustively" examined (unlawfully) by Avon and Somerset police in September 2008 and were identified as being within active and archived case".

Therefore, he goes on, Mr Port has either been "seriously misled by his own officers", or presented a misleading and "emotive story for public consumption".

Bates speculates that a number of elements are finally coming together. First, he observes that preliminary investigation of the drives relating to the case that sparked this train of events provided evidence that might have secured an acquittal: police actions (including their decision to apply for a warrant to a magistrate rather than a judge) disrupted his ability to present that evidence.

He also believes that these events finally link to fall-out from Operation Ore - perhaps the largest single operation by police against collectors of child porn in the UK - just as the likelihood of a class action against the police in respect of Ore cases nears the appeal courts. His view is that the investigation was hopelessly compromised by the presence of credit card fraud, and that a high proportion of the convictions were unduly influenced by a police tendency to interpret the evidence to fit their preconceptions.

"The biggest police scandal this country has ever seen"?

Bates told us:

The evidence I have collected over the six years since I first became involved in Operation ORE is extremely sensitive and undoubtedly includes information that the police (particularly CEOP) would prefer not to see revealed. It is likely that this evidence will eventually lead to exposure of the biggest police scandal that this country has ever seen.

Thus it appears that this may be a last ditch attempt by the police to cover up possible incompetence (or worse) by Avon and Somerset police and the shortcomings of Operation ORE. Colin Port may have been persuaded to make his stand on alleged child pornography to cloud the issues and retain the illegally obtained data.

I also feel that the recent support for [Colin Port’s] position offered by Jim Gamble of CEOP is extremely interesting given that Mr Gamble headed the Operation ORE enquiry and has more to lose than most when the appalling shambles is eventually exposed.

He concludes:

The relevant facts will be presented to Senior Judges at the High Court during the contempt proceedings scheduled for 16th June. Their decision is what counts, not the unsupported, misleading, inaccurate and emotive utterances of an embattled Senior Police officer.

The Register has asked the relevant police organisations for comment. Avon & Somerset have declined. A spokeswoman for CEOP stated that the allegations of credit card fraud were not new.

CEOP also provided the following statement:

Within the UK we put child welfare first. We are duty-bound to establish an investigation where there is an indication that children may have suffered abuse.

During the course of Operation Ore, more than 130 children have been safeguarded and over 2,500 perpetrators held to account. 700 people have been cautioned, meaning that they have accepted their guilt and are now on the sex offenders register.

Assessments came to the UK, cases were analysed and then passed to the local police force. Further assessments were then carried out as to the veracity of the information. Where there were reasonable grounds to suspect an individual, an independent assessment was carried out. Where there was evidence found to say that a person had visited an adult site no further action was taken.

®