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More reviews of documentary
Distressing trip into the heart of human darkness
Warning: This review contains sentences that some readers may find
disturbing. As Police Protecting Children began, so should this article, for
it is impossible to discuss the effects of last nights 90-minute
documentary, the first in a trilogy, without describing its content and its
content was deeply upsetting.
Two years ago the FBI arrested Thomas and Janice Reedy, a Texas couple who
operated a website called Landslide which served as a gateway to child
pornography obtained and posted on the internet by both a Russian and
Indonesian webmaster. For $29.95 subscribers across the globe could use
Landslide to enter a horrific world where children were raped, sodomised,
bound up and beaten, all for the sexual delight of a global audience that is
expanding tenfold each year. The tag-line on the site read: "Just Pre-Teen
Hardcore!!! Nothing Else!!! No Bullshit!"
The pictures, as you can imagine - if you missed it, perhaps you should not
- were so much worse. Thick black blocks screened the worst and protected
the BBC from prosecution under the Protection of Children Act 1978, but what
remained visible was vile. In Britain 7000 people paid their subscription
fee to view - not just an obscenity, but a criminal act by credit card - and
so left a paper-trail that led the Child Protection Serious Crime Squad to
their door, usually early in the morning.
For 18 months film-maker Bob Long and his team accompanied the squad on
their raids and while the young victims identities were obscured, the
voyeurs to their pain and distress were not. So we were introduced to Gary
Clement, a primary school teacher who had 13,000 images of child pornography
on his computer. During his police interview we heard him explain how he had
grown to hate the children in his charge and so exorcised his feelings on
the internet. The worse he felt, the more extreme the image viewed. "The
harder the image, the younger the child, the worse the scene that was going
Yet while the police arrested lawyers, accountants, company directors, TV
executives etc, the greatest time on screen was given to a more minor
offender: Pete Townshend. The Who guitarist had logged on to the site on
three occasions, in February, July and August 2002, and paid by Barclaycard.
No further evidence or downloaded pictures were discovered. He was given a
formal warning and his name placed on the sex offenders register. Yet the
footage of him nervously trying to crack a joke about his hearing with
officers showed a desperate man. In the police interview broadcast last
night he maintained his defence of researching for a campaign never
The impression, however, was of a man drawn to the forbidden. "I wanted to
see what was going on in the real world." What he saw, and yet what draw him
back, was an early image of a baby being abused. "I think that was the worst
thing I have seen. I was very disgusted and very angered by it."
What was surprising about the documentary was the consistent courtesy of the
police with their suspects. A few minutes after arresting a child
pornographer coming off a flight from Thailand, officer and criminal were
discussing the countrys traffic problem. When Townshend thanked the duty
officer for a cup of tea, he replied: "It was an honour."
Perhaps the rubber hose is pulled out after the camera crews depart, but I
doubt it - if anything positive can be gleamed from this brief journey into
the heart of darkness it was the dedication and professionalism of the
And yet Police Protecting Childrenleft one nagging doubt: what did it add to
our knowledge of these perpetrators that was not already covered in Longs
previous film, Hunt for Britains Paedophiles? What education did the
film-makers provide that made viewing those images that linger long after
the programme ended worthwhile?
The answer was too little and provided early on by a WPC referring to those
arrested: "They look just like ordinary people . . . There is nothing sleazy
about them . . . Its not old men in dirty macs."
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