Loop­hole lets pae­dophiles down­load ‘man­u­als’ from dark web

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - News -

A LE­GAL loop­hole al­lows pae­dophiles to legally down­load groom­ing man­u­als from the ‘dark web’, the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent has con­firmed.

The ‘in­struc­tion man­u­als’ pro­vide graphic in­for­ma­tion on how to ‘safely’ groom chil­dren for sex.

While it is an of­fence to pos­sess in­de­cent im­ages of chil­dren, the law does not specif­i­cally cover the pos­ses­sion of writ­ten ma­te­rial that gives ad­vice on how to iden­tify and groom vic­tims.

The De­part­ment of Jus­tice has con­firmed there are no im­me­di­ate plans to crack down on preda­tors down­load­ing the il­licit ma­te­rial from so-called ‘dark net’ sites.

The dark web is a hid­den area of the in­ter­net be­yond the reach of Google, where users can op­er­ate anony­mously.

The sites are vir­tu­ally un­trace­able global net­works, which in some cases are al­most im­pos­si­ble to po­lice.

Se­cu­rity sources say its use as an in­ter­na­tional mar­ket place for firearms, drugs and in­de­cent im­ages of chil­dren is con­tin­u­ing to rise.

In 2014, the de­part­ment said it planned to re­view leg­is­la­tion to ex­am­ine whether to close the loop­hole.

How­ever, it has now con­firmed no ac­tion has been taken to clamp down on an area of growing con­cern for child pro­tec­tion ser­vices.

In a state­ment, the de­part­ment stressed that the Crim­i­nal Law (Sex­ual Of­fences) Act con­tains a num­ber of new of­fences to fight the ex­ploita­tion of chil­dren.

These in­clude in­cit­ing or caus­ing a child to be­come in­volved in pros­ti­tu­tion, or the pro­duc­tion of child pornog­ra­phy.

Maeve Lewis, chief ex­ec­u­tive of One in Four, said it was “ap­palling” that abusers could down­load the ma­te­rial with­out fear of prose­cu­tion.

She warned that sex of­fend­ers gen­er­ally con­tin­ued to abuse un­til they were caught.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion pro­vides sup­port for adults sex­u­ally abused in child­hood, and op­er­ates a sex of­fender in­ter­ven­tion pro­gramme.

“The fact it’s not il­le­gal is un­think­able.

“Last year, we worked with 46 sex of­fend­ers as part of the pro­gramme. Al­most a third were aged 18 to 25.

“The vast ma­jor­ity be­gan their of­fend­ing at a very young age, down­load­ing im­ages of child sex­ual abuse.

“The in­ter­net is hugely prob­lem­atic. Through smart phones and other de­vices, chil­dren now have ac­cess to com­pletely in­ap­pro­pri­ate ma­te­rial. And most par­ents don’t have a clue what their kids are look­ing at.

“It’s a great worry for fa­thers, moth­ers and ed­u­ca­tors that chil­dren may be­come sex­u­alised by these im­ages, and ac­tu­ally go on to be­come sex of­fend­ers.”

One in Four’s an­nual re­port re­veals 40pc of its 800-plus clients last year were male.

Ms Lewis says this chal­lenges the idea that boys are less likely to be sex­u­ally abused.

Al­most half (46pc) of those coun­selled said they were abused in their own fam­i­lies — with strangers ac­cused in one-fifth (19pc) of cases.

Catholic Church fig­ures, friends and neigh­bours were each said to be re­spon­si­ble for one-tenth of abuse, while 9pc were abused by more than one per­son.

One in Four said that its clients had a “very good ex­pe­ri­ence” with gar­dai, but de­scribed the crim­i­nal court pro­ceed­ings as “de­mean­ing, hu­mil­i­at­ing, and re-trau­ma­tis­ing”.

Mean­while, ex­perts point out the in­ter­net com­prises three dif­fer­ent lay­ers: the sur­face web, the deep web, and the dark web.

The top sur­face layer is the part most users ac­cess by us­ing search en­gines such as Google.

The deep web con­tains pages that search en­gines can­not ac­cess, and that re­main hid­den with­out the use of a rel­e­vant pass­word, such as com­pany in­tranets ac­ces­si­ble only to em­ploy­ees, or on­line bank­ing apps.

Be­yond the deep web lies the dark web — a se­cret sec­tion of the on­line world that is ac­ces­si­ble only by us­ing soft­ware — which al­lows users to re­main un­trace­able.

The dark web is es­sen­tially an on­line black mar­ket, a place where those in­volved can trade in il­le­gal items, and pur­chase il­licit ma­te­ri­als, us­ing dig­i­tal cur­ren­cies such as Bit­coin.

WARN­ING: Maeve Lewis of One in Four says the in­ter­net is hugely prob­lem­atic. Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie Mark O’Re­gan

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