Police allowed abusers to go free in probe into paedophile, says judge
Child sex offenders may have escaped prosecution because police failed to fully investigate the activities of a pervert, a judge has warned.
Downpatrick Crown Court Judge Piers Grant said a "significant group of people" may have evaded prosecution because the police did not conduct a thorough investigation into the activities of 38-year-old Simon Hosick.
Hosick, of Lower Balloo Road, had over one million images and videos of child sex abuse on various electronic devices and freely admitted he had shared it with other paedophiles via the internet.
However, despite Hosick's admission the police did not attempt to identify any of the other paedophiles and merely charged him with possession of the indecent images.
Jailing Hosick for a year and ordering him to spend a further two years on supervised licence conditions, Judge Grant was critical of the way the case was investigated and presented after being told the police only looked at a sample of the images found on Hosick's computer and on external hard drives in his home.
As well as the jail term, he must also sign the police Sex Offenders Register indefinitely.
The case came to light in March 2013 when Hosick left his laptop into a Bangor computer shop for upgrading. However, technicians quickly alerted the PSNI when they discovered the shocking images which included abuse of children as young as four years old.
When police searched his home they discovered he had what is believed to be one of the largest collections of child sex abuse images ever uncovered in the UK.
When police questioned Hosick he was quite open that he possessed a large number of images and videos of children being abused and that he had shared them with other people.
However, Judge Grant was told the PSNI did not have time to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the haul and merely "dip-sampled" the abusive material, looking at random images and videos.
But Judge Grant said he had concerns about this process and believed a more comprehensive probe should have taken place.
"I inquired if the prosecution could say in definitive terms what proportion of the total material had been sampled and whether the prosecution were in a position to say, again in definitive terms, how much of the material was unlawful," said Judge Grant. "I was informed that the prosecution were not in a position to say.
"I was further concerned to determine what inquiries if any were made concerning the distribution of indecent images to other people," he continued.
"It seems to me, although I may be mistaken, that an examination of the defendant's electronic devices should have revealed the identify of those to whom the defendant sent this type of image."
Judge Grant said the public had been deprived of an opportunity where others may have been made amenable to the judicial process.