How a Phone Upgrade Sent a Pedophile to Prison

A so-called “sex-obsessed loner” will be spending the next three years in prison for downloading and possessing hours of child abuse videos he had downloaded from chatrooms and forums on both the darknet and clearnet. Although the 21-year-old’s “obsession with sex” led to his prison sentence, his decision to trade his cell phone for an upgraded version ultimately secured his capture and arrest.

Stewart William Tivendale, 21, decided the time for a phone upgrade had arrived. In an effort to drop the price of his new device, the 21-year-old traded his old device to the phone salesman. Tivendale had seemingly forgotten to erase his phone contacts, Teesside Crown Court heard at a recent sentencing hearing. In fairness, Tivendale may have formatted his phone in a way that left data—or fragments of data—recoverable through any number of basic programs designed for data recovery (assuming the man formatted the phone without overwriting the drive as well). The court heard no distinction between the two from Prosecutor Harry Hadfield.

Prosecutor Hadfield told the court, in front of Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, QC, that the cell phone store manager who had received Tivendale’s old phone discovered an image literally titled “dark web.” The image featured a 13-year-old girl without any clothing. The store manager immediately notified the local authorities. Officers arrived, searched the phone, and prepared a full-scale raid at Tivendale’s former Redcar home. Three days later, the 21-year-old’s home was torn apart by officers searching for additional electronic devices. They seized two desktop computers and one additional cell phone.

A forensic analysis of the devices uncovered 1,193 child abuse pictures and a total of 11 hours of child abuse videos. The prosecutor never said the pictures and videos were duplicates split between the man’s devices. He never said the content was unique either. Whether or not the man had multiple copies of the same content, investigators found that some of the content existed only on Tivendale’s devices; he had both personally created content and had obtained content from children he had been exploiting on various chat programs on the clearnet.

During a trial in April, the court heard how Tivendale had been downloading child abuse content from sources on the darknet and clearnet for several years. His fascination with the sexual objectification of children, though, began in 2007. Tivendale, in 2007, had not even reached his teenage years. Yet, the prosecution said, he had exploited several young boys he had met online. Between 2007 and 2016, Tivendale had “created” more than 300 “dreadful” pictures and videos of children as young as nine. He had been “inciting them to carry out dreadful acts,” the court heard. Some of the activities took place on the usual social networks.

Although authorities had originally charged the man with 12 crimes, new evidence added four additional child abuse charges. The defendant pleaded guilty to all 16 charges. He admitted committing the crimes listed below. The counts per charge, though, remain unknown.

  • Inciting children to engage in sexual acts;
  • Making indecent images of children;
  • Distributing indecent images of children;
  • The possession of extreme child pornography;
  • Attempted child exploitation (through incitement);
  • And arranging sexual offenses against children.

“There is a troubling aspect of your personality character, namely your obsession with sex and your obsession with sex with young boys and girls,” the judge said prior to handing down the three-day year prison sentence.