A man known as “one of Britain’s most prolific paedophiles” appealed his 32-year prison sentence at a recent hearing at the Court of Appeals in London. In an unexpected turn of events, three judges ruled that the man’s prison sentence was unreasonably long. The convicted pedophile left the hearing with a reduced prison sentence of only 25 years in custody after admitting he had committed more than 130 “horrific” crimes.
Matthew Falder, a graduate of Cambridge University, pleaded guilty last year to 137 counts of encouraging child rape, distributing child abuse content, voyeurism, sexual exploitation, and charges centered around activities on darkweb forums and on numerous messaging applications. His crimes made him the target of an “unprecedented” operation between the National Crime Agency; the Government Communications Headquarters; Homeland Security Investigations in the United States; and unidentified law enforcement agencies in both Australia and Israel.
At Birmingham Crown Court last year, prosecutor Ruona Iguyovwe told the court that Falder primarily operated by coercing both children and adults to send him “increasingly severe self-generated indecent images of themselves, the focus of these images being to humiliate and degrade.” Falder used the pictures and videos to extort more content from his victims; he told them that he would release the humiliating pictures to the victim’s friends and family unless they did what he had asked. More times than not, Falder’s requests grew increasingly severe or gruesome, making the victim more likely to comply when Falder requested something else.
Although he kept from sharing the pictures and videos with the families and friends of the victim, he maintained active accounts on so-called “hurt core” forums on the darkweb where he shared every picture and video. He posted content with context and explained how he had forced the victim to film or photograph themselves doing something humiliating. He asked users to comment about the humiliating nature of the content he had shared. Iguyovwe said that the content almost exclusively depicted sexual or physical abuse. Although he targeted both men and women, the majority of his victims were underage children. Usually young girls, the court heard.
In an example given by the prosecutor during the sentencing hearing, the court heard how Falder would contact young girls on messaging applications who had expressed an interest in art or photography. Pretending that he wanted to help them with their goals, Falder would eventually convince them to send photographs of themselves without any clothing. At first, the pictures would not be explicitly humiliating in a sexual manner. Many of the victims went along with Falder’s increasingly “horrifying” requests to prevent their parents from finding or selling the pictures. Many victims ended up attempting to take their own lives after the requests became too overwhelming.
Since many of the pictures and videos were sexual in nature and featured minors, the sexual exploitation of minors charges stuck. As did the distribution of child pornography charges. The encouraging the rape of a child charge stemmed from a conversation law enforcement found in Falder’s account history on one darkweb “hurtcore” forum. A father had posted asking whether or not he should have sex with his child. The child was only four-years-old at the time. Falder pushed the father into raping the child and then uploading a recording of the rape and sharing it with other forum members.
Investigators identified a total of 46 victims that Falder had attempted to “totally control.” And until his arrest, Falder actually had total control of some of his victim’s lives. “The damage is ongoing,” Judge Philip Parker QC said during Falder’s sentencing. “For these individuals it will never end, knowing the abuse caused by you still exists in other unknown persons’ computers.” The judge called Falder an incredibly dangerous sexual offender and passed down a 32-year prison sentence followed by six years on license.
At a recent Court of Appeals hearing, though, three judges considered the man’s appeal and granted it, dropping Falder’s sentence from 32 years in prison to only 25 years prison. The license period, after Falder’s release from prison, will remain.