Pedophile “Stumbled” onto Child Porn Site while Searching for Drugs

At Teesside Magistrates’ Court, Tony Martin Douglas Croes, 26, argued that he had not intentionally accessed the darknet in search of child abuse images. He said that he had not downloaded the illegal pictures found on his computer. Instead, Croes had accessed the darknet in search of illegal substances. Somehow, he “stumbled” onto a website that offered child abuse content.

According to prosecutor Rachael Dodsworth, the 26-year-old defendant had downloaded more than 100 illegal pictures of preteen children. The images were not the worst kind, the defense pointed out; all 104 pictures fit in “Category C” of the Sentencing Council Sexual Offences Definitive Guideline. Although the pictures fell short of the “worst” types of child abuse imagery as defined by the court, Croes nonetheless had downloaded illegal material on his computer.

And he may have downloaded more than what investigators had discovered on his computer. According to Dodsworth, Croes had installed software used for permanently erasing electronic content. At one point, though, the court pointed out that Croes had failed to erase the pictures found on his computer; the phrasing in court was to imply that Croes had attempted to delete the pictures and the software failed or it could have meant that Croes had forgotten to erase the 104 pictures they discovered on his computer out of negligence. It was later heard in court that Croes “tried to delete them.”

Sarah Lish, of the defense team, said that Croes had been working with the court throughout the case. He had pleaded guilty at the “earliest opportunity,” she told the court. The attorney continued, “[Croes] stumbled across the images accidentally but did view them, and then tried to delete them.” The prosecutor pointed out that Croes had kept the photos for at least five days before his arrest.

“He accessed the dark web to get drugs and also accessed a website suggesting teenage porn,” the defense attorney explained. She said Croes “received” pictures of children as young as 10-years-old. The word “received” takes the blame off her client and places it into the hands of a non-existent (or simply not present) third party. She effectively said that her client admittedly “stumbled” onto a site for accessing “child pornography,” but someone else threw a pile of pictures into his lap.

If Croes had not admitted to downloading the illegal pictures and he had someone else willing to admit they they had pushed Croes into downloading the pictures, perhaps the court would have looked at the case differently. However, Croes readily admitted that he downloaded the pictures.

District Judge Timothy Capstick told Croes that the “industry for child pornography” existed because of “people like you.” The judge sentenced Croes to an 18 month community order. He also ordered a sexual harm prevention order. The defense objected to the sexual harm order and will speak about it in court next month during a sentence review.