INDEPENDENT NEWS

New computer lab targets paedophiles

Published: Thu 17 Oct 2002 10:10 AM
New computer lab targets paedophiles
A new, state of the art computer laboratory will assist Censorship Compliance Unit inspectors target local and international consumers of child pornography.
Opening the laboratory based in the Department of Internal Affairs in Wellington, Internal Affairs Minister George Hawkins said the new laboratory would further boost the work of the Unit, which already had an internationally established reputation as a world-class facility.
Under the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993, seven staff employed by the Unit monitor the Internet for people trading in objectionable material, including child pornography. The inspectors are based in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
“As new technology and software become available to pedophiles, enforcement agencies must keep up to counter them. This laboratory is the first in New Zealand to features the latest available equipment and software,” Mr Hawkins said.
Computers seized by Department inspectors exercising search warrants in New Zealand are sent to the Unit where they are dismantled. Exact copies of the hard drives are then made using forensic software and data on the drives, including deleted files, analysed.
“The system is searched for information hidden in any way, encrypted material can be found and deciphered, and detailed histories of all e-mail, Internet activity and applications run are made,” Mr Hawkins said.
Mr Hawkins said analysis was vital because prosecutions succeeded or failed on the strength of evidence inspectors found in computer systems.
“Not only must the use of the hardware and software be technically correct, the inspectors must also comply with all laws of evidence so it can stand up in court,” Mr Hawkins said.
Mr Hawkins said information sharing directly between international agencies and via Interpol is common, with the Unit maintaining close links with enforcement agencies in Australia, the United States, Britain, Germany, the European Union and many other countries.
The Unit’s work in providing leads or responding to information supplied by overseas agencies had resulted in numerous convictions internationally.
For example, on the eight separate occasions where the Unit has provided intelligence to Norwegian authorities, eight successful prosecutions have resulted.
“The Unit is frequently commended by overseas agencies for its ability to work in well with them, the quality of information provided and the many successful prosecutions that have resulted,” Mr Hawkins said.
Since the Unit was set up in 1996, it had investigated more than 480 New Zealanders involved in Internet based child pornography, resulting in 101 convictions. There were around 25-30 prosecutions a year in New Zealand with 20 cases currently pending, Mr Hawkins said.

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