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Man jailed for 16 years for moderating child abuse site on dark web

Nathan Bake (National Crime Agency/PA)
Nathan Bake (National Crime Agency/PA)

A “solitary” car mechanic was second-in-command of a site on the dark web which allowed millions of child abuse images to be shared across the world, a court heard.

Nathan Bake, 28, was jailed for 16 years at Chester Crown Court on Wednesday after pleading guilty to 12 offences related to moderating and creating sites on the dark web used for sharing material showing child abuse.

Judge Patrick Thompson said: “In this day and age, given the wide public access to news material, there is very little that shocks the public, but this is such a case.

“People are revulsed by offending of this nature and those who take sexual gratification from the abuse of children in any form.”

The court heard that Bake was the head moderator for site The Annex, run by a man from Alabama in the US.

The site had almost 90,000 users across the world and saw extreme material shared involving abuse of babies and toddlers and “hurtcore”, which involves violence.

National Crime Agency (NCA) branch commander Adam Priestley said: “There was nothing on this site that was off limits. Everything was encouraged.”

Anna Pope, prosecuting, told the court that The Annex, which was identified by American law enforcement officers on a server in Romania in 2020 before being moved to a server in Moldova, was a “sophisticated and well-structured operation” with 30 members of staff.

She said users would first go to a “gateway” on the site, accessed through the Tor browser, and would have to “gain the trust” of those managing the site before being promoted to other areas, with names such as “Tots ‘R’ Us” and “No Limits”.

Bake, who lived alone in Runcorn, Cheshire, was a member of the site who rose through the ranks of the online paedophile community and eventually became second-in-command in May 2022 when the previous head moderator was arrested, the court heard.

Under the username Pink, he answered queries from other site users and offered advice on not getting caught.

In one post, Bake said: “Come on people, show us what you’ve got for HAPPY HOUR. Show us the boys and girls that turn you on the most.”

NCA lead officer in the case Mark Edmondson said: “He seems to be a fairly solitary individual. He worked during the day and then spent his evenings, pretty much all of them… as soon as he got in from work he would be logging on to these sites, and then (be) on these sites early into the morning hours.”

The site’s moderators, who also included Kabir Garg, a psychiatrist from Lewisham, south-east London, who was jailed for six years last year, would work shifts and hold staff meetings.

Kabir Garg
Kabir Garg (National Crime Agency/PA)

Mr Priestley said: “The men that we’re talking about here were very much part of a team – a staff that you would expect to see within any business – that provide a platform and facilitate a community of paedophiles to encourage the abuse of children all over the world.”

The court heard that more than 3.6 million indecent images were recovered from devices at Bake’s home following his arrest in November 2022, and children’s tights, underwear and sandals were found in the bottom drawer of his computer desk.

He had also been involved in moderating another site and was co-creator of a third, named Lolita’s Paradise, Ms Pope said.

Judge Thompson said he considered Bake to be a dangerous offender and ordered an extended licence period of four years.

He told him: “You are a committed paedophile who represents a very significant risk of causing serious harm to children.”

Keith Jones, defending, said Bake, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 16, had converted to Islam, was studying Arabic and “finding some peace in the scriptures”.

He said: “He acknowledges that his behaviour is morally reprehensible.”

Bake, of Harrow Drive, Runcorn, pleaded guilty last year to participating in an organised crime group, three counts of facilitating child sexual exploitation, two counts of distributing indecent images of children, three counts of making indecent images of children, possession of a paedophile manual, possession of prohibited images of children and possession of extreme pornography.