FBI catch child abuse pervert during investigation into the 'dark web'
A British pervert was caught accessing sickening images of child abuse as a result of an ongoing investigation into the "dark web" carried out by the FBI.
Law enforcement officers in America gained access to the servers of an internet forum called Playpen, which distributes such images, as part of a worldwide
probe into illegal activities online.
While covertly monitoring the site, investigators were able to obtain the IP address of a user in Houghton, and passed on the details they had to the UK's National Crime Agency.
As a result, British detectives seized three computers from Steven Archer's grandmother's home in the town.
The jobless 31-year-old "strongly denied" he had done anything wrong, but an interrogation of the machines revealed he was the user who had been accessing the banned site.
As a result of his activities, he had accessed 964 images of children being abused, many in the most serious categories.
At Newcastle Crown Court Archer, of Roman Road, South Shields, pleaded guilty to two charges of making indecent images of children.
Prosecutor Paul Mitchell told the court: "This derives from an ongoing investigation run by the FBI in America. They have been investigating what is called the dark web, part of the internet people access in a way which is supposed to mask their identity from the authorities."
Mr Mitchell said as part of the investigation, in February last year access was gained to the Playpen forum, which advertises and distrubutes child images.
The agents were able to see that one user, who was later exposed as being Archer, had used the site for a total of ten hours and five minutes.
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Archer had registered with the illegal site on November 5 2014 and had last used it on February 6 last year.
The court heard out of the 964 indecent images he had accessed, only one remained on his computer and the rest had been deleted.
Investigations of his computers showed he had deliberately searched for images of children.
Because of Archer's denials about what he had been doing, prosecutors spent more than £5,000 preparing the case for trial, which included two computer experts travelling to Newcastle from other parts of the UK.
He pleaded guilty on the day of trial.
Nick Cartmell, defending, said Archer had been "in denial" but has now faced up to what he had been doing.
Mr Cartmell added: "He had only one photograph. He had had others but he had not tried to keep them. They had been seen, they had been deleted.
"He had not been hoarding or keeping the material."
Mr recorder Euan Duff sentenced Archer to 11 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with rehabilitation requirements and sex offender treatment programme.
Archer must sign the sex offenders register and abide by a sexual harm prevention order for five years and pay £3,000 costs.