Glasgow & West Scotland

Man jailed for streaming child sex abuse from Philippines

Peter Dupont
Image caption Investigative journalist Peter Dupont took this picture of Bell on his webcam

A sales advisor who was the first person in Scotland to be convicted of live streaming abuse of children has been jailed for nine years.

A judge told Mathew Bell, 51, he had sunk to "new depths of depravity" with his crimes.

The predator directed attacks from his home and was in contact with female paedophiles in the Philippines to prey on the children as he watched.

Earlier this month he admitted four charges under the Sexual Offences Act.

The BBC later learned British authorities failed to arrest the paedophile for 18 months after a tip-off about him.

The National Crime Agency was first warned about his activities in September 2016.

But Bell continued to pay to watch the abuse of Filipino children until at least April 2017 and was not arrested until March last year.

The chairwoman of the House of Commons home affairs committee said the case was "deeply worrying".

The High Court in Glasgow heard Bell's crimes included paying 93p to see a young girl abused.

Bell, from Irvine, North Ayrshire, also directed a man to rape an unconscious woman via live-stream.

'Depths of depravity'

Lord Arthurson told him: "This involved abuse in the Philippines that you orchestrated and live streamed into your home by way of an internet connection.

"Those working in these courts require, in large part, to endure a daily diet of depravity.

"On occasion, an indictment comes before the court in which new depths of such depravity are plumbed. I have concluded that yours is such a case.

"I propose to sentence you on no different basis that if you had undertaken the sexual abuse in person.

"What you actually did, by involving proxy third-party abusers, merits an even more substantial period of imprisonment."

Bell will be also be supervised for a further six years on his release.

Horrific evidence was recovered from his computer and hard drive after his arrest.

Image caption Journalist Peter Dupont first contacted the Child Exploitation and Online Protection command in 2016

Prosecutor Steven Borthwick said: "Moving images of child sexual exploitation were recovered.

"Bell has instructed said abuse to take place by verbal and written communication to persons in the Philippines via internet message services."

The court was told a young boy was attacked in April 2016.

Bell chatted to two women via Skype as the pair preyed on the child.

The hearing was then told Bell "participated in the sexual abuse" of a girl in March 2017.

He again spoke to a Filipino woman via Skype as she attacked the child and sent a message promising to send money.

Another girl was also targeted in a similar way around the same time.

The court heard there was also evidence of Bell "making payment for the sexual services of a child".

This emerged from a "live screenshot" during the abuse.

Mr Borthwick: "It showed Brown making a payment of 50 Philippine Piso (93p)...there is an element of bartering as the female will not continue."

'Despises himself'

The prosecutor added police cyber experts usually found images which had an accused person had instead downloaded.

He added: "The unit is not aware of any other case involving live streaming of child sexual abuse in a foreign jurisdiction."

Police also uncovered footage of an unconscious woman in the Philippines being raped in 2013 - under the direction of Bell via the internet.

Mr Borthwick said there had been an "agreed plan" and that Bell "acted in concert" to sexually assault the woman.

He also pled guilty at the earlier hearing to making indecent photographs of children.

The five charges span between 2013 and 2017.

John McElroy, defending, said: "The offending is despicable and the effect on the victims will be significant.

"He despises himself knowing what he did was wrong."

Bell - who showed no emotion during the hearing - was also placed on the sex offenders list indefinitely.

'Unimaginable impact'

Det Insp Susan Milloy said: "It is unimaginable what impact Bell will have had on his victims in this case, many of whom were not even within the same country as their abuser.

"We hope that this conviction and sentencing send a clear message.

"You may think that by sitting in your home live streaming abuse that you will not be caught, but you will.

"Make no mistake, we will come after anyone who is committing these heinous crimes, no matter how long it takes."

Catriona Bryden, procurator fiscal for sexual offences, said: "Matthew Bell's prosecution for a conspiracy to commit a serious sexual offence and inciting a number of sexual offences involving children via live stream to the Philippines is the first of its kind in Scotland.

"We may never know the fate of the woman and children that he caused to suffer for his own sexual gratification.

"The technical resources available to investigators and the sharing of information across continents by law enforcement agencies mean that the complexities of global sexual cybercrime will present no barriers to justice being done."

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