Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Letter from Duncan Campbell

  I work as a forensic scientific expert witness in criminal cases. I have been instructed in more than 20 Operation Ore prosecutions, and have advised in many similar cases. I am a Law Society registered expert witness.

  I was surprised to read testimony given to the Committee on 11 January 2007.

  Lord Erroll put a number of informed questions to your witnesses Mr Gamble and Ms Girling of CEOP in respect of Operation Ore. In particular, he asked "Is there possibly going to be a problem with the amount of credit card theft—identity theft as people have re-named it—that is going on at the moment?"

Mr Gamble replied "We never prosecute someone simply on the basis of their credit card being used". (Q 221)

  I am unable to understand how Mr Gamble, who has led these enquiries for five years, could have so mis-stated matters to the Committee. There are, and continue to be, many prosecutions of this type. Most Operation Ore prosecutions are and were of this nature. Such cases involve charges of "incitement" only, and are based solely on data and records recovered in 1999 from a US Internet company. There is no collateral information to support these "incitement" charges. Indeed, the charges were devised and applied precisely because there was no other information or evidence. They are used systematically, when police forensic examination of a suspect's seized computers show no evidence of child pornography, nor of any interest in or attempts to acquire such material.

  I was, further, at a loss to understand why Ms Girling did not seek to correct her colleague's omisison when appearing before the Committee. She cannot in my direct experience be in any doubt about the position. She personally has attended a number of such trials in my presence, and is scheduled to attend many more, in each of which defendants continued to be prosecuted and to face jail sentences, loss of family and career, and the stigma of a Sexual Offenders Register entry, solely on the basis of their credit card data and personal information having been used by third parties for financial gain in 1998 and 1999.

  Ms Girling and I both attended Stafford Crown Court in January 2006 for three Operation Ore incitement cases. On 20 January 2006, His Honour Judge Mitchell asked how many cases of this type were still outstanding. Through the prosecuting advocate, Ms Girling replied that there were two thousand such cases.

  Within a few hours of the evidence to the Committee being published, I received e-mails and other communications from current and past defendants in these matters. These correspondants expressed outrage at what had been said to the Committee, because they knew from personal experience that the statements made were wrong. Several of them offered to give evidence if desired, or even to appear before the Committee and display the indictments they faced or face, as plain evidence of the correct facts.

  I understand that your current inquiry is not focused in the shortcomings of Operation Ore. However I presume you are concerned about the truthfulness of witnesses who appear before you. I attach two recent judgements [not printed]. R v Grout is a case in which the defendant was a victim of credit card identity theft, and was acquitted after precisely the kind of prosecution whose existence was denied to you by Mr Gamble. The second is R v Chief Constable of A ex parte C, which documents many of the abuses of legal and police procedure with which Operation Ore has unfortunately been contaminated. I am aware of many other similar cases.

  These cases raise broader issues of relevance to your inquiry than the possible misconduct of a particular police unit. These issues could include the police failure to understand the nature of the Internet, the inadequacy of police computer forensic resources, and the inappropriate use of resources that should have been deployed against Internet financial crime and Internet organised terrorism. These management failings contribute directly to the poor personal security enjoyed online by UK citizens.

  I myself would be happy to attend before you and provide evidence.

10 February 2007

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