On January 5, both Exeter Crown Court and York Crown Court in England saw two separate cases of defendants who used the darknet to access child pornography. In one case, a 40-year-old from Birchy Barton Hill, Exeter, pleaded guilty to three counts of downloading or viewing child pornography. In the other case, Martin Richard Shepherd, a 45-year-old hospital IT employee, pleaded guilty to making and distributing CP, and unauthorized access to private computer files.
The first defendant, Gabor Papai, fared better than the second. In the courtroom, he admitted that he viewed, downloaded and shared CP from 2011-2016. Francesca Whebell, the prosecutor, said police raided Papai’s house in late 2016 and seized all electronic equipment within it. They, the police, received evidence that “suggested” he accessed CP images and movies. A forensic examination confirmed the suggestion above. Files on the man’s computer showed children between the ages of six and fifteen from all three categories of CP crimes, “including the most severe.”
“There were also search terms including ‘young video models’ and ‘little girl with grandpa.’ He had also installed a Tor browser which allows anonymous use of the internet,” she added.
However, according to Judge Geoffrey Mercer, QC, the man was of good character—something that undoubtedly influenced the verdict:
“You must understand that downloading this material prolongs the abuse of children. You are of good character. You will not be able to say that again. It prevents you going to prison today, but if you continue to download this material, that is where you will go. You have pleaded guilty and are thoroughly ashamed of what you have done, as you should be.”
Judge Geoffrey Mercer sentenced Gabor Papai to 60-days of sexual rehabilitation and one-year on probation. Additionally, the judge ordered Papai to sign into the sex-offender registry for five years.
The hospital IT employee from Chatsworth Grove, Harrogate, left the courtroom with a five-year prison term. Martin Shepherd, according to Prosecutor Stephanie Hancock, downloaded, viewed, and shared CP from 2002 until his arrest in 2016. His position at the hospital, she said, allowed him to stash and store the images secretly. He also installed hidden cameras to spy on children at the hospital.
Cybercrime detectives, after 14 years, tracked the illegal downloads to Shepherd’s computer. Analysis of the man’s machines proved to be a daunting task. Hancock explained that on the seized storage, the defendant possessed 748,000 illegal images and videos. They featured the abuse of children including 12-month-old babies. She said that “The defendant admitted he used the dark web and Tor which makes it impossible to trace the internet use or history. She continued that “as a computer expert, he knew that it would not leave a forensic footprint of the searches that he was carrying out and his IP address could not be traced.”
After explaining how repulsed he felt by the crimes, Judge Paul Batty QC sentenced Shepherd to five years in prison and a lifetime of the sex offender registry.
“This is the worst case of its type that I have had to deal with in a long time in the law. It represents the actual manifestation of abuse of little children on an extraordinary scale. For some 14 years or more, you were involved in this loathsome activity (and) you were viewing this material for hour upon hour. Some of the children who were depicted were babes-in-arms being abused in the vilest of ways, and some of the children were plainly drugged or had been fed alcohol. The charges that you admit are but a snapshot of what the police were able to view.”
Hancock added that Shepherd’s media cache only made up part of the images he accumulated over the years.