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49 child porn cases in Northern Ireland's courts - but are they just tip of the iceberg?

By Rebecca Black

Published 22/05/2015

The figures were revealed following a question in the Assembly from DUP MLA Lord Morrow
The figures were revealed following a question in the Assembly from DUP MLA Lord Morrow

There are currently 49 cases involving indecent images of children going through our courts system, it can be revealed.

The highest number are in Belfast with 15; then there are 13 in Newtownards Court; seven in Craigavon; six in Armagh and south Down, four in Antrim and three in Fermanagh.

The final case is being heard in the High Court in Belfast.

The figures were revealed following a question in the Assembly from DUP MLA Lord Morrow.

He said he was shocked by the numbers. "These are worrying figures, because if this is the number - which is high - what is the number of those who have not been detected and caught.

"It is a two-edged sword no matter which way you look at it.

"I have concerns about these numbers in terms, is this the whole story, or are the numbers even higher?

"I would like to think the numbers are not higher, but if they are I am very worried."

Lord Morrow said he planned to pursue how many successful convictions there have been in similar cases.

The total number of criminal cases involving indecent images currently going through the courts emerged this week as it was revealed one of the first cases the National Crime Agency (NCA) will take on will be the sordid online activities of Simon Hosick (38), who was jailed earlier this month.

Hosick, of Lower Balloo Road, Groomsport, had a million shocking pictures and videos of abuse on various electronic devices and admitted to detectives that he had shared them via the internet.

However, the PSNI drew stinging criticism from Downpatrick Crown Court Judge Piers Grant, who said a "significant group of people" may have evaded prosecution because the officers did not attempt to identify any of the paedophiles he shared with.

Judge Grant also expressed concern that detectives had merely "dip-sampled" a few thousand images, leaving the vast majority unexamined.

Following the judge's damning remarks, the Police Ombudsman is now probing how the PSNI investigation was carried out.

Investigators from the NCA will join forces with the PSNI for a fresh look at the evidence.

They'll also examine more closely Hosick's lifestyle and his travel history in a bid to track down other offenders and victims.

The PSNI's child internet protection team is a small, Belfast-based unit, with just eight dedicated officers. Police say the team's work has led to 50 arrests in the past year and 37 people charged.

A spokesman said: "Under new structures to investigate crime, PSNI has a capability to surge extra officers into this area of investigation, should the need arise."

An NCA source said: "The PSNI will still be the first point of contact for complaints, or referrals, regarding child sexual exploitation. But the NCA, with its full powers in Northern Ireland and across the UK, can arrest people here, or in England, and bring them to court in either jurisdiction. We will be very active in Northern Ireland in the area of child protection and prosecution of abusers.

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