Digital device detection dogs have protected people from sexual abuse by a man, Nicky Paul Mitchell, thirty-eight, who was under a sexual harm prevention order. He was obliged, under the order, to declare any Internet-enabled devices in his possession to his offender manager. He was in breach of the order.
He had been issued with the order after being found in possession of indecent images of children when working as an au pair in America for a family who had young children.
He had a habit of hiding his devices and they would have been hard to find but for Rhubarb and Jake. Rhubarb is a Cocker Spaniel and Jake is a Labrador. They have both been trained to detect computer and ancillary devices such as phones, computers, USB sticks and hard drives.
Specifically, they’ve been trained to detect chemicals within these devices which are used in their manufacture such as memory chips. The training takes ten weeks and the dogs have to be over one-year-of-age.
They were sent with their handlers, PC Brett French and PC Chris Duffee to the area of Mitchell’s address in Ealing, West London to search it. They sniffed out nine items including a mobile phone, three USB sticks, a hard drive and a camcorder.
PC Charlotte Elliott who was running the investigation against Mitchell said that they would have had great difficulty in finding the items but for the excellent work of Rhubarb and Jake. She said that, “the items would have been difficult to find. Instead, the dogs quickly and easily located them for us.”
She added that if there had not found the devices it would have left Mitchell to carry on as he had done in the past and he is considered to be a very high risk and dangerous offender who would not have been caught. She looks forward to working with the dogs again saying, “Myself and my colleagues look forward to working closely with the dogs and of course their handlers again in the future.”
Rhubarb and Jake are part of a team of digital medial detection dogs used by the Met Police on murder, counter-terrorism and sexual offence cases. Chief superintendent Karen Findlay said, “This was a brilliant result for both the dogs and their handlers. It is a true testament to our dog school and dedication and hard work from both dogs and officers throughout their months of training, which has clearly paid off.”
P.S. Nicky Paul Mitchell, 38, (08.08.82) pleaded guilty to repeatedly breaching his Sexual Harm prevention Order (SHPO) at Isleworth Crown Court on Friday, 18 December – source: Met Police. He will be sentenced later.
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