Legal Statement Regarding Sparklebox

A Mr Samuel Kinge who has been a shareholder and a director of the company that owns childrens learning materials web sites known as Sparklebox was convicted (Friday 8th Jan 2010) by Worcester Crown Court of Possession of Indecent Images of Children and has received a sentence of twelve months in jail, must remain on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years and for 15 years is subject to a Sexual Offences Protection Order (a SOPO) which amongst other things requires that Kinge can only access the Internet on a machine monitorable by the Police. Kinge pleaded guilty and was on remand in prison prior to sentencing.

South West Grid for Learning Trust (SWGfL) is a company limited by guarantee owned by the South West’s local authorities which undertakes a Regional Broadband Consortium (an RBC); broadband internet provision for schools in the South West on behalf of regional local authorities and their childrens services. SWGfL provides a secure, child safety filtered internet service to local authorities and schools. The service is about enabling our young people to learn how to use the internet safely for learning and leisure and to do so safely. SWGfL also takes a leading role in teacher training about child wellbeing in today’s internet and communications technology environments.

SWGfL’s safety monitoring and filtering systems disclosed that Sparklebox may be a possible child safety issue. There have been opportunities in Sparklebox for pictures of young people to be sent in and be published online and until recently there was a live blog. SWGfL cannot disclose details of its state of the art security and safety systems or how they applied in this case since do so would prejudice their effectiveness. SWGfL has a considerable internet child wellbeing security and filtering advantage because of its regional reach enabling a substantial security and filtering investment.

SWGfL contacted the police in the Avon and Somerset and West Mercia forces and sought legal advice in respect of the concerns about Sparklebox. The police and legal advisors acted immediately with a view to better understanding the risk and responding to it appropriately. SWGfL subsequently acted in accordance with police directions and advisement and legal advice with a view to above all best protecting children and also ensuring that police investigations were not prejudiced.

SWGfL’s subsequent actions included;

  • blocking the Sparklebox web site from the regional schools internet network;
  • notifying schools, local authorities and other agencies as and to the extent circumstances permitted.

CEOP, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, has recently issued two statements supporting the action taken and an extract from the first and the second are set out below. Schools are encouraged to each make their own decisions about whether and how to access Sparklebox materials subject to the advice of their local authority. To facilitate this SWGfL will continue to block the primary Sparklebox websites until further notice.

This multi agency initiative has been successful and a number of individuals and several agencies have each played their part in a professional, timely, high priority and effective manner.

Whilst it is good that one potential child safety issue has been detected and dealt with SWGfL cannot drop its guard, must remain vigilant and will like all RBCs seek to maintain and develop the highest possible standards of regional schools internet child safety and safety education, including in conjunction with the police as appropriate.

CEOP [the Child Exploitation and On Line Protection Centre] are aware that a number of [Regional Broadband Consortia] and Local Authorities have blocked until they are satisfied that suitable safeguarding arrangements are in place. CEOP supports this stance and would recommend that any schools who choose to overrule their central filtering lists give due consideration to a website specific school risk analysis and risk management plan.

As per previous press statements, the owner of Sparklebox, Daniel Kinge, has been sentenced to 12 months in prison. As such, CEOP feels that schools could look to resume their use of the website in line with their normal risk assessment and management policies and in consultation with their local authority."