Life sentence for Net murderer

Another Internet-related criminal sentenced in the UK

A man who used Internet chatrooms to explore his obsession with rape has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a mother of two. David Ferguson, 31, of Chatham was found guilty of stabbing Susan Kent to death at her home near Gillingham on 24 November 1999. Mr Justice Hidden sentenced him to life in jail, with a minimum of 20 years.

Maidstone Crown Court heard that Ferguson connected his home PC to the Internet six days before he sexually assaulted Ms Kent and stabbed her ten times. Computer experts at Kent police submitted evidence of Ferguson sending rape-obsessed emails to women that he had stalked on the Internet -- the emails were saved on the hard-drive of his computer. The prosecution also proved that he had been accessing Web sites such as louiscypher.com -- a pornography site containing images of women being attacked and raped.

Mr Alan Kent of the Crown Prosecution Counsel said "any member of the public would want to see Net predators caught before they commit a crime off-line". However, he admitted his concern that there is no way of controlling Net predators due to the problem of admitting "entrapment" evidence within a UK court.

Last month the controversial paedophile case of Patrick Green highlighted the inadequacy of UK law for convicting sexual offenders operating online. It was only when the police found DNA evidence in Green's flat that they were able to bring charges against him for the offline sexual offence of sexual intercourse with a minor.

In the separate "Milton Keynes" case, a 47-year-old man travelled from Durham to Milton Keynes to meet 14-year-old Georgie, whom he had met in an Internet chatroom. The girl's mother reported the incident to the police, but the police were unable to press charges due to the inadmissibility of recorded emails as evidence.

The Home Office has argued that the 1960 Indecency with Children Act is adequate to protect children from indecent assault online. The US have a 1996 law prohibiting the targeting of children via the Internet for the purposes of sex.

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