A UK man who ran an online child abuse image library that served as a meeting place for paedophiles was jailed indefinitely on Monday.
Philip Anthony Thompson, 27, of Stockton-on-Tees, was convicted of holding a library of 241,000 indecent images of kids, ranging in explicitness from the borderline legal to clearly obscene. Judge Michael Taylor described Thompson as a "dangerous offender" who would be placed on the sex offenders register for the rest of his life.
Thompson pleaded guilty to 27 charges including 16 counts of making indecent images, seven of distributing images of child abuse and one count of inducing a child under 13 to engage in sexual acts, PA reports.
Thompson will serve a minimum of three years and nine months, but will only be released when authorities are convinced he no longer presents a threat to youngsters. His entry on the sex offenders register means he will never be allowed to work with children.
Police said 50 arrests have been made and 130 suspects identified in the UK alone during the investigation into the child abuse ring centered around invitation-only sites run by Thompson. Outside Britain a further 230 suspects have been identified in countries including the US, Australia and Canada.
Undercover cops from the Metropolitan police infiltrated the ring in May 2007, in what became one of the largest investigations of its kind by British police. Officers from Cleveland Police and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) were also involved in the case.
Members of the forum run by Thompson would initially post images of children of borderline legality. These served as calling cards indicating that they were open to trading explicit photos and movie clips. The approach was designed to keep the site from attracting attention, allowing it to exist as a forum for child abusers to meet others with similar interests. Once connected, users exchanged images with each other and discussed plans for more abuse.
Thompson was unemployed at the time of his arrests and taught himself how to run the forum he operated, PA adds.
CEOP chief executive Jim Gamble said: "This website - whilst appearing to operate on the margins of legality - was clearly a front for the sinister, sexual abuse of children and an image-trading ground for paedophiles."
The investigation has resulted in the removal of 15 children from situations where they have been or might be abused by offenders, the BBC reports.
Det Chief Supt Mark Braithwaite, from Cleveland Police, said Thompson played a key role as a conduit for child abusers to meet and exchange images.
"He was, essentially, the librarian for a myriad of images that were distributed to like-minded individuals both in this country and elsewhere." ®