Man takes police to court to get porn back ; Child images probably downloaded by accident [Bristol Evening Post (England)]
(Bristol Evening Post (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) A DISABLED man with a liking for pornography took the police to court to demand they return his huge collection of explicit adult movies.
Police arrested Anthony Gerrard, right, three times on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children, seizing six PCs and laptops.
Although 11 illegal pictures were found on four hard drives, they had been downloaded automat- ically to parts of the computers Mr Gerrard could not have accessed without specialist tools or techniques. Not pressing any charges, officers returned two of the computers but kept the ones containing child pornography and took Mr Gerrard to court for the forfeiture and destruction of the hard drives. Last July, District Judge David Parsons found in the police's favour, but Mr Gerrard, 59, appealed in a bid to get his computers - containing 888GB of adult movies and thousands (2.5GB) of adult pornographic images - back.
Police are not allowed to return hard drives with child pornography on them, because they would then be distributing illegal material. Mr Gerrard, of Broadfield Road, Knowle, argued they could have deleted the child pornography or transferred them to another device and given him the adult images back. Explaining to The Post what he wanted, Mr Gerrard said: "If they gave me my computers back, instead of searching the internet I could just search my own computers. I wouldn't have time to search the internet. "I paid Pounds 40 for a month's subscription to a website and I was downloading films from it day and night. I wanted to get my money's worth. "I'm not interested in child porn. I don't think it's fair they are keeping my computers when I haven't done anything illegal.
"They cost me a couple of thousand pounds in total. Every time the police took two computers away, I would buy another two." Mr Gerrard, who has been married four times and is estranged from his son, added: "The good thing about having a computer is you can switch it off when you've finished - you can't switch off a wife." At the appeal hearing, Judge Julian Lambert, sitting with magistrates Simon Brookes and Chris Barke, found in favour of the police and dismissed Mr Gerrard's appeal. The law states that if it is not "prac- ticable" to separate offending images from where they are stored, the item should be forfeited to the police. Digital evidence recovery officer Scott Eggins told the court: "Deletion in a computer sense is a very complicated matter. There is no such thing as a permanent deletion on computers unfortunately - or fortunately. There is no way of permanently deleting it, short of putting it through a shredder." The officer who arrested Mr Gerrard, PC Ben Jefferies, said: "The vast proportion of images that were recovered from Mr Gerrard's PC were adult in nature. The pornography that he had searched for was all adult. "The 11 (child porn) images had been downloaded unwittingly, probably."
The police said, due to the amount of legal pornography Mr Gerrard possessed, it could take days to transfer it to an external hard drive, which could cost up to Pounds 100 for a drive, plus police time. Mr Gerrard declined to provide them with a new hard drive. When asked how he could afford so many computers, he said he paid for them out of his disability benefits. The 59-year-old was paralysed after breaking his neck in an accident at home, but has now recovered enough to walk with an aid. After viewing the questionable images, Judge Lambert and the justices ruled that, on the balance of probabilities, the images were "indecent" and showed eight girls and three boys under 18. Mr Gerrard, who said he only had Pounds 100 in savings, was ordered to pay Pounds 1,533 costs. Judge Lambert said: "We see no way, on the evidence in front of us, that the hard drives could be returned to the appellant with the images deleted so that they cannot be recovered." After the case, Mr Gerrard said: "If they had just been able to delete the images and give me my computers back it would've saved a lot of court time and money. I'm gutted, but I've had my day in court and I thought the judge was very fair."
There is no such thing as a permanent deletion on computers unfortunately - or fortunately. There is no way of permanently deleting it, short of putting it through a shredder. Evidence officer Scott Eggins
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