Couple Stuart and Julie Brown with the CPO Security Firewall box at Child Protect Online’s offices in West Pinchbeck.

South Holland child sex abuse victim launches device for better online protection

A victim of child sex abuse has used his traumatic experiences as the inspiration for launching an online protection product.

Stuart Brown was the victim of more than 100 assaults by former Lincolnshire Police officer and scout leader John Bates, who was handed a 20-year sentence last year for historical abuse of boys.

On Wednesday (Feb 1) – nine months on from the harrowing trial – Stuart and his wife Julie brought a device to market which gives parents and businesses better understanding of how their internet connection is being used and the ability to block  inappropriate content and known malicious sites.

CPO Security Firewall is a box which plugs into an internet router in the home or office and has a managed service via a subscription. It covers all devices in the home and gives detailed reports on websites being accessed.

Stuart, who has 30 years’ experience in IT, said: “Our mission is quite simple – to empower parents, grandparents, responsible adults or business owners to provide a much safer internet environment.
“We are convinced our solution is far safer and more secure than your cheap, bog-standard router provided by just about every internet service provider in the UK.”

He added: “Obviously it isn’t the same world of technology as when I suffered, but there were flags then but people didn’t take any notice.
“Parents can take a lot more responsibility now.
“Online grooming is such a massive thing now. This is an affordable but nonetheless comprehensive solution.
“If we can prevent one child from going through that, then it’s a success.”

Julie and Stuart, who married last year, are both parents and recognise the role which grown-ups need to play in governing online activity.

Julie said that as children have so many different internet-enabled devices now, it is difficult for parents to keep track of online usage and check that warnings to them about inappropriate websites and chat rooms are being heeded.

She said: “The thing is, generally, if you tell children not to jump off a wall, they will. It’s not that they are naughty, it’s just how they are.
“We have seen with the case of [murdered schoolgirl]  Kayleigh Haywood what can occur. Grooming can happen so quickly.”

The couple are targeting pre-schools and nurseries with the box, as Ofsted’s guidelines on online security are not as rigorous as they are for schools.

Stuart said: “It’s not only important to protect the children but protect the employer from the employees.
“I’d like to see South Holland as a digitally safe area. That’s why I’m looking for council backing and why we’re both prepared to go out into the community and talk about it.”

Stuart acknowledged that some people will see the device as “snooping” and will not be to everybody’s liking.
The box retails for £300 plus VAT and the yearly contract is £10 or £20 per month, dependant on the level of service required. A version for business starts at £400 plus VAT.

Developing Child Protect Online over the last couple of months has proved cathartic for Stuart, who waived his right to anonymity in order to speak about Bates’ crimes.

Julie said: “Stuart has done very well with this. He became very ill with the stress of the trial and suffered for quite a while afterwards.”

Stuart added: “I’m now able to concentrate on moving forward. Your self-confidence is boosted by what you have been saying for so many years being proven.”

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