Sexual offences are amongst the most heinous crimes which most people can imagine and as such the penalties under Sexual Offences Act 2003 are accordingly severe. The crimes can be committed by just about anyone regardless of background or upbringing as was evidenced with the conviction of prominent Cambridge University alumni Dr. Matthew Falder. It is also the case that many of these perpetrators will go on to subject their victims to unimaginable and degrading treatment during the ordeal. This has recently come to light with Falder who would force his victims to take part in acts so degrading that three-attempted suicide.
Falder’s crimes are not recent but instead date back to his time studying geophysics at the prestigious Clare College Cambridge. He was convicted of 137 charges of sexual abuse crimes at Birmingham Crown Court. The charges included inciting sexual exploitation of a child, causing a child to commit sexual activity, voyeurism, making and distributing sexual images of a child, fraud, blackmail and encouraging rape. Falder would meet his victims through inconspicuous websites such as Gumtree and convince up to fifty people both men and women to send him explicit pictures. He then threatened to release the photographs into the public domain if his sick and depraved wants were not complied with. He told one of his victims: –
“Do as I say or I will send the images to everyone on Facebook associated with your school, and in letters to your parents and teachers, explaining with printouts of all the pictures that you will strip for money”
In one instance Falder insisted that a 15-year-old girl film herself licking the floor of a public toilet before sending him the footage. She went on to describe the horrific ordeal saying: –
“I feel dirty, like used goods. I think about what happened to me every day”
Prosecuting Falder was Ruona Iguyovwe of the Crown Prosecution Service’s International Justice and Organised Crime Division who released a statement saying: –
“Matthew Falder is a highly manipulative individual who used his knowledge of computers and the internet to persuade dozens of young people to supply him with degrading images he could distribute online and subsequently use in blackmailing them. He clearly enjoyed humiliating his victims and the impact of his offending, which carried on over several years, has been significant”
Despite Falder being convicted and currently awaiting sentencing; it is hard to imagine just how devastating an impact this whole nightmare will have on his victims, particularly when you consider that some were minors. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children released a statement saying: –
“Using the internet, Falder was able to commit appalling crimes without ever meeting his victims and the NSPCC believes that far more must be done to combat the growing issues of online sex offending and the distribution of child abuse images”
It is easy to say that the police and internet providers cannot apprehend every sexual deviant who uses the internet. Inevitably some will be clever enough to go undetected. However, this case raises the question that for all the legislation in place, are we doing enough to safeguard children and young people online.