Medical student’s child porn cache found after FBI virus raid

Dundee Sheriff Court
Dundee Sheriff Court

A St Andrews University medical student had his flat raided in an FBI co-ordinated crackdown on a malicious computer programme – only for cops to find he had a stash of child abuse images and videos.

James Cottrill avoided a jail term over the find at his student digs in the town, where he stayed while training to become a doctor.

Dundee Sheriff Court heard the find had had a “catastrophic effect on his career plans”, with Cottrill now working as a manager of a ski equipment shop in France.

American federal authorities co-ordinated a worlwide operation after the so-called BlackShades “malware” infected over half a million computers around the world.

Cottrill was initially accused of making or supplying a user guide for the virus.

But when his computer was fully examined by police e-crime experts they found a stash of sick child abuse images.

Fiscal depute Eilidh Robertson told the court: “On the laptop there were six images at category A – the highest level – five at category B and three at category C.

“On his hard drive there were three category A, one category B and three category C, all movies.

“There were a further 12 category A still images, nine category B and 13 category C.”

Cottrill (23), Tettenhall, Wolverhampton, pleaded guilty on indictment to charges of downloading and possessing indecent images of children.

His not guilty pleas to five charges of sending written sexual communications to children asking them to expose themselves on webcams were accepted by the Crown.

Defence solicitor Douglas Williams said: “He accepts the offences are serious.”

Sheriff Alastair Brown imposed a community payback order, placing Cottrill under supervision for three years and ordering him to take part in a sex offenders groupwork programme.

Cottrill was also placed on the sex offenders register for three years.

Sheriff Brown said: “Every photo represents the abuse of a child. Those who view these images and those who download them, by creating an audience, contribute to that abuse.

“What you did you did out of some immaturity and possibly naivety. The effect on your plans for the future has been catastrophic.

“I’m satisfied the correct way to deal with this is to make a community payback order.”

Cottrill originally appeared in court in April 2015 charged under the Computer Misuse Act that he made, adapted, supplied or offered to supply a user guide and a setup guide intended to be used to commit an offence.

The FBI in America co-ordinated raids in 15 countries, with 15 arrests made in the UK – including Cottrill – relating to Blackshades.

The software typically infected computers when people clicked on external links on social networking sites and in emails that purported to lead to pictures, videos or other items. Once installed it allowed criminals to capture personal information or take photos of users via their webcams which could be used for blackmail.