By Sonia Elks
LONDON, May 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A former British Army officer who spent thousands of pounds on directing and viewing live-streamed child sexual abuse from the Philippines was sentenced to more than three years in prison on Wednesday.
Anti-slavery groups hailed the conviction of Andrew Whiddett, 70, amid a cross-border effort to crack down on cybersex trafficking crimes.
"The Philippines is a global hot spot for online sexual exploitation of children, but the online consumers of this vile abuse are – as in this case - often from Western countries like the UK," said David Westlake of anti-slavery group International Justice Mission UK.
"It's vital that perpetrators both here in the UK and abroad are held to account and that sentences are strong enough to act as a deterrent."
Cybersex trafficking is considered a form of modern-day slavery and the Philippines has become a global epicentre for the crime, with campaigners saying the abuse is largely fuelled by rampant poverty.
Former lieutenant colonel Whiddett committed his crimes with the help of known Filipino child sex abuse facilitators over Skype, said officials at Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA).
Whiddett made nearly 50 payments totalling 5,473 pounds ($6,938) to a woman between January 2015 and July 2017. During conversations in 2016 he also discussed carrying out abuse himself during a planned trip the Philippines.
A former lieutenant colonel in the British Army has been jailed for 38 months after spending thousands of pounds paying for and directing live-streamed child sexual abuse from the Philippines. See full story https://t.co/VRsvpYgJIX pic.twitter.com/TaHZLxkokG— NationalCrimeAgency (@NCA_UK) May 22, 2019
Investigators were able to show that in November 2015, he paid 31.41 pounds to watch a nine-year-old girl be abused.
Britain's NCA passed intelligence to their Filipino counterparts who arrested one person for facilitating child sex abuse and took measures to protect six children aged between three and 14.
Whiddett, who has no previous convictions, was arrested in October 2017 at Heathrow Airport and initially claimed his online payments were for adult sex shows.
He was jailed after he admitted six charges including live-streaming offences and making indecent images of children.
"Live-streaming sex crimes exploit the vulnerable; he was helped in this case by facilitators whose motive is to make money," said Gary Fennelly, a senior investigating officer at the NCA.
"The NCA does important work with international law enforcement partners in the Philippines to combat these sorts of crimes."
"Anyone like Whiddett should realise that the NCA and UK police will never give up our pursuit of offenders who commit these horrific crimes."
Whiddett, of Portsmouth, Hampshire, committed his crimes after he retired from the army. ($1 = 0.7888 pounds)
(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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