Hundreds of people questioned by police as part of an internet child pornography inquiry may have been innocent victims of credit card fraud, an investigation has found.Operation Ore, the UK’s largest ever online child porn investigation, uncovered more than 7,000 names and credit card details that were used to purchase illegal child abuse images from a website based in the US.
But a BBC Radio 4 programme has found that many of those people who were arrested and accused of being a paedophile may have been victims of card fraud. Police in the US sent their details to the British authorities, but many now believe that they were used illegally. Police in the UK confirmed that some may have been wrongly accused but emphasise that none were prosecuted.
The programme has cast fresh doubt on the operation with solicitors and computer analysts claiming that the authorities failed to carry out proper checks on the suspects to establish whether they were fraud victims.
“The police just didn’t look for and didn’t understand the evidence of wholesale card fraud,” Ross Anderson, professor or security engineering at Cambridge University, told the BBC. “And as a result, hundreds of people, possibly thousands, have put through a terrible mill with threats of prosecution for child pornography.”