During a recent hearing in a Canadian courtroom, Justice Allan Maclure sentenced a former member of the darkweb child abuse forum “Childs Play” to prison for 39 months. The man, a former school bus driver from London, had pleaded guilty to possessing, distributing, or creating child pornography at an earlier court appearance. The convicted pedophile received a significantly shorter prison sentence than expected due to both time served and to testimony from a therapist familiar with the case.
According to evidence uncovered in an investigation conducted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the former bus driver had taken at least 176 pictures and videos of children on the bus he had driven for a London elementary school in Ontario, Canada. The man, known only as “Steps” to the public due to a publication ban, was caught by Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigators during a lengthy investigation into the users of two darkweb child abuse forums: MagicKingdom and Childs Play.
During an investigation into members of the MagicKingdom forum, RCMP investigators found “concerning” pictures and videos from a forum member named “Steps.” The evidence collected from the content on the forum disturbed investigators because it revealed that the person uploading the pictures was deeply involved in the lives of dozens of children. They knew that he had been living in Canada and had access to children in fairly large numbers. In early videos, according to the RCMP, the scenes were not clear but background noise made the presence of children fairly obvious. His early videos were essentially solo videos of Steps pleasuring himself in an environment with children present. Knowing that the suspect was a male who worked around children, the police built a profile. However, the lack of information rendered the working profile fairly useless during the MagicKingdom investigation.
To the dismay of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, MagicKingdom went down before investigators had examined all of the information posted by Steps. Furthermore, they wanted to catch him but thought he had slipped out of the scope of their investigation. And he had, in a way; the RCMP had stopped actively investigating Steps after losing access to the forum and to the illegal content Steps had produced. Although the RCMP had analyzed dozens of videos, they could only find four after MagicKingdom shut down. The RCMP believed they had lost Steps.
It was not until the investigation into the much larger child abuse forum “Childs Play” that an RCMP investigator found videos that matched the four the RCMP had salvaged from the MagicKingdom investigation. The investigators were even more surprised to find Steps —using the same username—on the Childs Play forum. He had greater amounts of content on Childs Play too. And much of that content helped the police create a very specific profile for the pedophile who operated the account. His newer videos became excellent sources of information for investigators. He had started creating playlists of videos featuring himself that included the faces and voices of children on the bus. Investigators were able to conclusively state that Steps had access to a school bus for school children of a certain age. The children trusted Steps and had no objection to the man’s presence on the bus, so investigators concluded that Steps drove a bus for an elementary school.
They had narrowed down the list of possible suspects to something reasonably simple to investigate. And they caught him in the summer of 2017. That found more than 800 videos and pictures in his possession. At least 176 were produced by Steps himself. The others had been downloaded from the child abuse forums.
Justice Allan Maclure decided that Steps would get credit for time served in jail and additional credit for “showing remorse.” A therapist had been working with Steps and told the court that the man admitted he had a problem and that he would like to address it in whatever manner was possible. “You know the difference between right and wrong,” Justice Maclure proclaimed of Steps during the hearing. After some silence the judge continued, “so go and do right.”