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National Crime Agency will investigate child porn case the PSNI panned over

By Yvette Shapiro

Published 21/05/2015

The National Crime Agency is joining the probe into the activities of Co Down paedophile Simon Hosick after a judge’s stinging criticism of how the PSNI carried out its investigation
The National Crime Agency is joining the probe into the activities of Co Down paedophile Simon Hosick after a judge’s stinging criticism of how the PSNI carried out its investigation

The National Crime Agency is to join the investigation into the sickening activities of a Co Down paedophile who had more than a million images of child sexual abuse on his computer.

The NCA, which begins full operations in Northern Ireland today, will use its specialist skills in digital forensics and e-crime, as well as links with international law enforcement agencies, to probe the sordid online activities of Simon Hosick (38), who was jailed earlier this month.

Hosick, of Lower Balloo Road, Groomsport, had the shocking pictures and videos of abuse on various electronic devices and admitted to detectives that he had shared them with other paedophiles 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 other paedophiles.

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

Following the damning remarks, the Police Ombudsman is now probing the PSNI investigation.

And 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, still reeling from Judge Grant's rebuke, is reluctant to cede control of the case to the NCA.

Detective Chief Superintendent George Clarke, who heads the PSNI's public protection unit, said: "The matter has not been passed to the NCA. We remain confident in our ability to investigate such cases."

However, it's understood that the NCA will effectively take the lead in the new investigation.

A source at NCA said: "It's almost as if we're starting a separate case now against Hosick. The PSNI did what was sufficient to get charges in the case, but potentially there could be many more victims contained in the unexamined images.

"We're taking it on and we can use different forensic techniques. It takes time, but it can be done with the right technology, which we have at our disposal."

Tackling child sexual exploitation has been designated a key priority by the Government. In March Prime Minister David Cameron summoned police and social services chiefs to Downing Street for a major summit on the issue.

The Government has pledged an additional £10m in funding over the next two years for the NCA and Child Exploitation Online Protection Centre (CEOP) to create new teams to tackle online exploitation.

The NCA source said: "Paedophiles like Hosick are potentially sharing images with people all over the world; it's called 'peer-to-peer swopping'. Tracking these people down is essential, but in policing terms it's like tackling drugs by only hitting the street dealers - you've got to keep moving up the chain."

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

In spite of its small size, Detective Chief Superintendent Clarke explained: "Under new structures to investigate crime, PSNI has a capability to surge extra officers into this area of investigation, should the need arise."

The NCA source explained: "The PSNI will still be the first point of contact regarding child sexual exploitation. But the NCA 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."

Belfast Telegraph

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