Monday, 19th February 2018

The jailing of British national Matthew Falder, who admitted 137 charges of online sexual exploitation, highlights how offenders are using increasingly complex technology to evade capture and underlines the need for robust international cooperation in cross-border child abuse cases.

Matthew Falder, 29, who “revelled” in inflicting pain and suffering on his victims, was jailed today for 32 years after admitting 137 charges of online sexual exploitation against children and adults in the UK and internationally. Falder used the anonymity of the ‘dark web’ to trick and blackmail victims into providing footage of sexually abusive acts, deliberately targeting young and vulnerable victims. At least three victims attempted suicide following the abuse, which was described by a judge as “ever-increasing depravity”.

The investigation and conviction of Cambridge graduate Falder has been described by the National Crime Agency (NCA) as a ‘watershed moment’ for policing due to the offender’s use of complex technology, including encrypted software and dark web forums that allow users to remain anonymous and largely untraceable.

Following a number of victims reporting abuse to local police, an international taskforce was set up by the NCA, comprising members of the US Homeland Security Investigations, the Australian Federal Police and Europol, and supported by the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and other international partners. The taskforce shared and developed intelligence against Falder and other dark web sites used by anonymous sex offenders. Using different user names and encryption software, Falder approached more than 300 people worldwide and 45 individuals were named on the indictment against him.

Falder, who worked at Birmingham University, was given a 32-year prison sentence with an extended period of six years on licence. He was also made the subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and placed on the sex offenders' register

The successful prosecution of Falder highlights the need for strong international working in cases of cross-border child abuse, particularly as increasingly sophisticated technology enables offenders to reach victims more easily, providing direct access to children through mobile phones and electronic devices. Digital technology, such as social networking platforms, enables offenders to reach victims in multiple locations internationally, making policing and prosecution increasingly challenging. The proliferation of hidden, ‘dark web’ platforms add an additional layer of difficulty for law enforcement as they are exploited by offenders to maintain anonymity and conceal their actions.

This case demonstrates the need for greater cooperation across borders, not only to investigate these crimes and prosecute offenders, but also to prevent such offending behaviours and ensure robust, adequate child protection policies are in place internationally to protect children from abusers who may not be easily traced.

Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT UK) has campaigned for international cooperation and accountability in the prosecution of sex offenders who target children, and to ensure child victims receive adequate support and access to compensation, including those who are abused online.

Chloe Setter, Head of Advocacy, Policy and Campaigns at ECPAT UK, said: “It is hard to imagine the impact of Falder’s abuse on his many victims worldwide. His use of sophisticated software and the ‘dark web’ to hide his crimes highlights the challenge to law enforcement globally who must stay on the front foot to identify perpetrators and protect children and vulnerable adults from such abuse. This case shows us how, in order to tackle cross-border crime, governments must work closely together and prioritise the tackling of online child abuse.”



View the NCA’s press release on the Matthew Falder case

ECPAT UK is a member of the Children’s Coalition on Internet Safety (CHIS) and campaigns for transnational child safeguarding including adequate support for victims and cross-border prosecution of offenders. 

Press contacts

Chloe Setter, Head of Advocacy, Policy & Campaigns, ECPAT UK: 07890120834 [email protected]

Sinead Geoghegan, Information, Media and Communications Officer, ECPAT UK: 020 7607 2136 [email protected]