Northern Ireland

Court told paedophiles may have escaped prosecution

Paedophiles who used the internet to exchange photographs and videos of children being abused may have escaped prosecution because of alleged failures in a police investigation.

The suggestion was made by a judge as he sentenced County Down man Simon Hosick to a year in prison.

The judge said a "significant group of people" may have evaded prosecution because police did not conduct a thorough investigation into the activities of 38-year-old Hosick.

Simon Hosick, from Lower Balloo Road, Groomsport, had up to one million images of children as young as four on his computer.

Some of these he shared with other internet-users, although the court heard there was "no evidence" that he had been paid for them.

They were discovered when he left the device into a computer shop in Bangor and asked staff to upgrade his hard drive.

The technicians, however, discovered the indecent images and immediately contacted the police who searched his home and seized several devices.

The sheer number of still photographs and video clips made it impossible for the specialist PSNI detectives to view everything, but they believed he had more than a million illegal images on his computer.

The detectives instead took "dip samples" and eventually Hosick pleaded guilty to having 10,001 images, 10,000 of children and one of "extreme adult pornography".

Images like these are graded into five categories - many of those on Hosick's computer were in the most serious categories of four and five.

The judge 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, memory sticks and pen drives in his home.

Sentencing Hosick at Downpatrick Crown Court, the judge said it was clear children in the images had been "terribly abused".

They had, he said, been "robbed of the innocence and wonder of their childhood".

He added: "These images would not be made and these children would not be exposed to this type of depravity and the harm that results, if you and others like you did not demand this type of material and take perverted pleasure from it, thereby creating a market."

Hosick was jailed for a year and ordered to spend a further two years on supervised licence.