Police not to bother with school porn allegations

Police will not be investigating claims by forensic investigator John Thackray that he has found traces of pornography, including possibly illegal material, on school computers.

Police will not be investigating claims by forensic investigator John Thackray that he has found traces of pornography, including possibly illegal material, on school computers.

The main reason is simply that no one has made an official complaint to the police, says Maarten Klientjes, national manager of the police department’s e-crime laboratories. But he also thinks Thackray’s allegation was “over the top”, and that there has been very little substantive evidence of deliberate access to pornography through school computers.

“[Thackray’s] statements carried in the [media] have brought me about a dozen calls,” he says. “I had [a school staff member] phone me, who’s interested in dog breeding. She was looking for a dog breeding website [using a school computer] and had all these pornography and prostitution sites just pop up on the screen from a search. And she was worried that material from those sites might be found in the computer.”

Accidental acquisition of pornographic material in such a way, at least as far as the browser cache, are probably not uncommon, he says. For a complaint to be made, it should be established that unacceptable material is arriving on the computer in a systematic way, and can be shown to be due to the deliberate activities of particular users. Such strong cases in the past year “could be counted on the fingers of one hand at most”, he says.

One current case in Auckland involves a teacher who has been dismissed for accessing porn on a school computer, and another alleged case that emerged last week in Christchurch. Police are investigating the first and Internal Affairs the second, says IA spokesman Vince Cholewa.

As for Thackray’s suggestion that a comprehensive forensic examination be made of all school computers, “that’s like suggesting that all students submit their bags for inspection to make sure they’re not stealing school property. It’s not necessary,” says Kleintjes.

“I would advise schools to spend their money instead on educating the children on what’s good and what’s bad [on the internet],” he says. Otherwise, the minute they get out of school they’ll just go and access the stuff on their home computers.”

Since Thackray’s remarks, a number of schools have noted that they have internet safety policies and filters in place that appear to be working well.

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