Child-abuse expert to sue police after raid on home

January 17, 2003

Criminologist Bill Thompson plans to file a lawsuit against the police after they raided his home and office as part of an investigation into child pornography. The investigation has apparently been abandoned.

Reading University has lifted its year-long suspension of Dr Thompson, an expert witness in child sex-abuse cases, and invited him to return to work. The university has been informed by Thames Valley police that they would not be bringing any charges against Dr Thompson.

Dr Thompson said: "On the basis of apparently anonymous and malicious calls, the police smashed in my door and took my computers, teaching materials and legal casework. Ten months on I have not been interviewed, arrested or charged, but my career has been in potential ruins."

He has instructed a solicitor to help him prepare a claim for damages against the police.

Although Dr Thompson's early research focused on pornography and sex work, his later work on child sex abuse has helped overturn convictions in at least 20 cases.

He was praised by Law Lords in Scotland last year for helping to overturn a conviction for child rape, which carries a seven-year sentence. He gave evidence to the House of Commons home affairs select committee last year in its investigation into miscarriages of justice arising from flawed interviews by social workers and police in child-abuse cases.

Dr Thompson said this week there was no child pornography on any of his computers, but said images of children were present in a hard-copy file taken by the police. "They took one folder relating to a live legal case that had some images in it that were sent to me for a legal opinion by the British False Memory Society. It was material I was entitled to possess. Let me be clear - where I find that pictures clearly are obscene, I will advise that they cannot be defended."

Dr Thompson is entitled to protection against prosecution for possessing material as he falls into the categories of people singled out by the Child Protection Act of 1978 - academics conducting research and experts employed within the criminal justice system. But he said the problem facing academics was that the protection could be used only after prosecution. He said this was preventing important research into child pornography, and left all academics and experts open to malicious allegations.

Dr Thompson was concerned that the police appeared to have obtained a search warrant without telling the magistrate that he was an expert witness and he was angry that the police have had access to case files.

A police spokeswoman said that the officer in charge of the investigation was on leave, so there could be no confirmation of the status of the investigation or comment on any aspect of the case.

John Brady, director of personnel at Reading, told Dr Thompson last November that the police had informed the university that its investigations would be completed by the end of December and that there was "nothing to suggest that charges would follow". The university would not comment.

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