A former Southwell man who used encrypted files in an attempt to hide child abuse images has been gaoled.
Jonathan Hipkiss (41) was sentenced to 12 months in prison at Nottingham Crown Court after police experts accessed complicated virtual computer drives to reveal the images.
He was given a sex offenders’ prevention order, will have to sign the sex offenders’ register once released from prison, has been excluded from working with children for life, and a destruction order was issued for his computers.
Nottinghamshire Police used a Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), section 49 notice for the first time, which legally required Hipkiss to disclose the password for a large number of hidden files on his computer hard drive.
He refused so police, with the help of the National Technical Assistance Centre, cracked the encrypted files — only the third time this has been done nationally.
The force had received information from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre that showed Hipkiss had accessed films of children from an Austrian server.
A search warrant was executed and a large number of media storage devices were seized and examined by the force’s e-Crime department.
Indecent images of children were uncovered, including a number depicting the most serious sexual abuse.
Hipkiss admitted 15 counts of making indecent images of children, three counts of possession of indecent images of children and one offence under section 53 of the RIPA Act 2000, after he refused to give the relevant computer passwords.
It is believed to be only the third conviction in the country for the offence of failing to give the relevant passwords.
Detective Sergeant Harry Parsonage, of the e-Crime Unit, said: “This is one of the most complicated examinations of computer files that I have seen in the ten years that I have been in charge of the unit, and credit must go to the officer who carried out such a meticulous piece of work.
“It required an in-depth, detailed look into a large number of items over several months.
“Hipkiss was put into a position where he had no choice than to admit what he had done after our officers had been able to piece together many fragments of evidence to show he had intentionally downloaded and saved these files.”
Detective Inspector Ian Winton, of the Sexual Exploitation Investigation Unit, said: “This case shows that no matter what lengths people think they can take to hide child abuse images, we will find them.
“There is no computer file or hard drive device that cannot be accessed and we will continue to use our powers to crack down on anyone who thinks they can get away with this sort of crime.”
The head of intelligence for the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, Ruth Allen, said the case was an example of UK law enforcement agencies collaborating to track and hold child sex offenders to account.
She said: “Any individual who believes they can evade justice will no longer be able to hide behind the technology they use.”
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