It is January 2017. At this point the two have been running the Childs Play website for three months. Under their supervision, thousands of members have shared photos and videos of children being sexually abused. A Norwegian member boasted of abusing children in his own family. Some members got together in person to commit abuse, which they filmed and shared on the forum.
It’s understandable that Jon and Paul look shocked. Finding them was thought to be impossible. The website they operate is on the so-called “dark web”. Encryption was supposed to keep the whereabouts of the server and the people behind it secret. VG has uncovered not only where but also from which computer the forum was run.
Lawyer, James Marsh, takes a more positive view of the police using such images. He represents numerous children who feature in the most widely shared exploitation images.
“Several of my clients would have welcomed police use of their images in the battle to track down abusers. They know how skilled these men are at hiding and understand what it takes to catch them,” Marsh says.
He nevertheless understands the mother’s reaction. The pictures of her daughter had been less extensively distributed than many others, so each new share carried more significance.
“I agree with her that the police should compensate the victims, but not with money. If victims could be consulted along the way, it would give them a sense of control. Control is exactly what they were deprived of during the assaults,” says Marsh.