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IWF report catches sexual offender

An anonymous public report to the Internet Watch Foundation led to a man’s arrest, conviction and the rescue of three children from sexual abuse.

Darren Leggett is starting an indeterminate seven year sentence today (21 June) after pleading guilty to more than 30 counts of child sexual abuse over a six year period on children as young as six.

Leggett will have to serve a minimum of seven years and prove he is no longer a danger before he can be considered for release.

The unemployed 32-year-old, previously of Mount Avenue, Yalding, near Maidstone was convicted of 31 counts of child sex offences, including four of child rape, taking, possessing and distributing sexual abuse images of children and arranging a child for sex. He admitted filming his abuse of children and then setting up two websites where images and videos of child abuse were distributed to others.

Leggett’s crimes came to light when the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) received an anonymous tip off on 3 February (2012) from a member of the public who had discovered one of the two websites Leggett had created for distributing sexual images of children.

An IWF analyst assessed the content and agreed it was of a criminal nature. On that website, an advert linked to a second site, probably run in parallel, which also contained child sexual abuse content - specifically a page of videos and a page of still images.

Whilst assessing the content on the website, the IWF analyst identified a chat area with recent posts. There were contact details - a UK email address and UK phone number - which appeared to belong to the website owner who had been conversing on the site. From the nature of the ‘chat’, it appeared that children were in danger.

The website was traced as hosted in Germany on a free hosting space. As such, the IWF forwarded the report to its sister Hotline in Germany in order to remove the criminal content.

However, as the websites’ content potentially linked to the UK, the IWF shared this information with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre. It is routine for the IWF to work closely with CEOP’s Victim Identification team and referrals desk. CEOP identified the account and the individual to which the website originated, and traced him to the Kent area. They then worked with detectives at Kent Police who began investigating.

On 6 February the IWF analyst liaised with Jugendschutz, the German Hotline, to advise them not to take down the content in order to allow the UK police investigation to take place. The German Hotline, in turn, passed this information on to its own law enforcement.

Kent Police officers set up an operation, during which Leggett arranged to pay for sexual abuse of a child. This led to a warrant being carried out at Leggett’s home address on 10 February which resulted in his arrest. During the warrant, police seized his computer and memory sticks, which indicated the extent of his offending. Officers found 36 films he had made in which he committed a string of sexual abuse offences against three young children.

Appearing at Maidstone Crown Court today (21 June), Leggett was deemed such a danger to children by Judge Statman that only an indeterminate sentence was sufficient.

Emma Lowther, IWF Director of Communications, said: “It is with thanks to the person who anonymously made a report to the Internet Watch Foundation that our Hotline could assess the serious nature of the websites and work with police colleagues who identified the man behind them.

“These websites were out of the ordinary with serious depraved desires to trade, sell, and rent children.

“Thanks to the close partnership working, within a week of the report being received, a dangerous offender and distributor of child sexual abuse images was arrested and in less than four months has been imprisoned.

“There is no better result than knowing our work has helped rescue three children from further suffering, shut down criminal websites and convict the offender running them.”

Detective Sergeant Dave Shipley, senior investigating officer for the case for Kent Police comments: “Leggett used children as objects for his depraved desires, as commodities which he was content to trade and share with others, with no thought for the impact his actions would have on his victims.

“Through the joined-up working of the agencies involved, a dangerous man has been brought to justice for his crimes. As a result, we have been able to identify the victims and take steps to ensure they are protected from any further harm.

“This case is an excellent example of sharing of information between those who police the internet and those who police the community. It also indicates the extent to which we are prepared to work with others to track down and prosecute those involved in the systematic abuse of children.”

Jim Warnock, Head of Operational Delivery at the CEOP Centre said: “Today’s sentence highlights just how important the excellent working relationships between officers at the CEOP Centre, the IWF and Kent Police are.

“Using initial information provided by the IWF, developing that and working to identify the offender and providing a package of intelligence to Kent Police, officers at CEOP have helped to ensure that another extremely dangerous child sexual offender is now behind bars.

“Darren Leggett showed no thought for the impact his actions had on the children he abused, or their families. Anyone who thinks they can cause harm to our most vulnerable should take note of this case and understand that law enforcement agencies, and the partners we work with, will do everything in our power to hold them to account”.

Leggett will also be required to sign on the sex offenders register for life, has a lifelong sexual offences prevention order and he will be barred from working with children and vulnerable adults. He will also undergo a sex offender treatment programme.