A serial child sex offender has been jailed for two and a half years after he downloaded more than 14,000 pictures and videos of children on the dark web.

Investigators from the National Crime Agency arrested Mark James Dale, aged 45, at his home in Market Place, Romford, in July last year after linking Dale’s online activity to a known paedophile forum.

Dale, who has previous convictions for child sexual abuse offences, frequented chat rooms and searched for abuse material on the dark web, which he accessed using TOR (The Onion Router) software. 

Custody pic Mark James Dale

A laptop and tablet seized were found to contain 14,222 indecent images and videos of children – ranging from category A, the most serious, to C.

Dale was convicted in 2011 and 2019 for similar offences, and was bound to strict rules under a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO). These included registering any digital devices with the Metropolitan Police Service.

Yesterday at Snaresbrook Crown Court, he was sentenced to 30 months after he pleaded guilty to six counts of making indecent images of children and breaching his SHPO at an earlier hearing.

NCA Operations Manager Martin Ludlow said: “Despite being a convicted child sex offender, Dale continued to seek out abuse images in the belief that using the dark web gave him anonymity.

“We must not forget that for every image or video he downloaded, a child was being exploited somewhere.

“Tackling child sexual abuse is of the utmost priority to the NCA and working with our partners, we will do everything in our power to protect children and hold those perpetrators to account.”

12 May 2021