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Expert questions Operation Ore success

30 September 2005

The success of Operation Ore, the massive child pornography operation which saw more than 400 cases investigated by Scottish police forces, has been questioned by experts according to an article in today's Scotsman.

The operation took place three years ago after 7,200 names were supplied to British police officers by the US authorities. The names on the list were those accused of paying for child pornography from an American-based website called Landslide.

Around 420 names were passed to Scottish police forces and approximately 250 homes were searched, with 500 computers and accessories seized and 120 arrests made.

A total of 102 people in Scotland were convicted following the operation and the National Crime Squad said 120 children across the UK had been rescued from abuse as a result.

In the Scotsman's article, an expert witness has described the operation as a "witchhunt" using fatally flawed evidence. Duncan Campbell, a computer expert who has worked on several Operation Ore cases, dismisses claims from the US authorities that everyone who went to the Landslide website (which allowed access to 400 adult sites) saw a banner on the front page saying "Clikc Here [for] Child Porn".

He said the child porn banner was an advertisement for another site which led to police investigating people in the UK who were only accessing adult sites. He added that more than 10 Operation Ore defendents he had spoken to, including those unjustly accused, had contemplated taking their own lives because of the accusations.

In the article, Mr Campbell is quoted as saying: "The success of Operation Ore is that a large number of people were properly convicted. But the disaster is the lack of judgment and excess of zeal in the way the police hounded the innocent. It has become a witchhunt."

The deputy director of the National Crime Sqaud Jim Gamble said there had been difficulties in the early stages, but denied that police had taken a "production line' approach to the operation. He added that 120 children had been rescused from abuse and violence as a result and questioned what people would say if these cases had not been investigated.