There were audible gasps of disbelief in a UK Magistrates' Court last week as Oliver Whiting walked out of the front door a free man.

Given the horror that he has inflicted on his victims, many will sympathise with the tearful scenes of anger and despair that ensued as they and their families watched him leave - ironically, under a protective police escort.

Whiting, a 37-year-old former pub supervisor from Eastbourne in East Sussex, snatched innocuous photographs from the social media pages of female friends - and a relative - and uploaded them on to a pornographic site where users are encouraged to print them off, perform vile deviant acts with them, and post images of themselves doing so, reports Daily Mail.

Among those he targeted was his younger half-sister. Whiting posted a photograph of her aged 16 and in her school uniform, asking other users of the American-owned website how much they would pay to rape her.


That his crime was discovered at all owes much to the skilful detective work of one of his victims - 26-year-old Nikki Elliott, a waitress who once worked for Whiting and regarded him as a friend.

But after a year-long battle for justice, not to mention a flawed investigation by Sussex Police, Whiting has narrowly evaded jail with a "slap on the wrist" six-month sentence, suspended for two years, and an order to attend a sexual offenders' rehabilitation programme.

The apparent leniency with which he has been treated is largely due to the fact that his crimes - dismissed at first by police call handlers who told Nikki simply to "unfriend him on Facebook" - were finally dealt with under the Communications Act 2003, which carries much lighter sentences.

Since he has not been found guilty of any sexual offence, his name will be left off the sexual offenders' register and, despite the fact that the images he uploaded included pregnant women and toddlers, he is even free to work with children if he so wishes.

Meanwhile, to his victims' enduring agony, the photographs he stole from at least 14 women remain on the pornographic website onto which he uploaded them, and anyone can see them and, in some cases, their names too.

Sussex Police says it is powerless to have them removed because the website is based in the United States and therefore out of their jurisdiction. When approached directly, the website demanded £50 a picture to take them down.

"It's devastating that after everything we've been through he is not in prison and the photographs are still there," says Nikki, a mother-of-one from Eastbourne, who was the first to raise the alarm about Whiting's vile crimes.

She has since received online messages from men saying they want to rape her and posing naked while holding photographs of her.

"It doesn't feel as if we have justice or that he has been stopped," she says. "It's not even a question of wanting to punish him. He is seriously twisted. My fear is that he will do much worse in future."

Nikki first met Whiting in February 2012 when she went for a job interview at a Harvester pub overlooking the water at Eastbourne's Sovereign Harbour marina complex.

"He was very friendly and personable," she recalls. "He said: 'Tell me all about yourself.'"

She got the job and Whiting, she says, was not the only supervisor she worked for but he was "charismatic and funny" and one of her favourites. "We got on really well," she says.

"He knew that I had a boyfriend and there was never anything romantic between us but he really took me under his wing when I was new.

"We always used to have a good chat and we shared the same sense of humour.

"Sometimes at the end of a shift, I'd drop him home in my car, but there was nothing weird or anything that gave me cause for concern."

In April 2013, Nikki, who lives with her 27-year-old fiancé, builder Dan Taylor, went on maternity leave. Their daughter Olivia was born in May 2013 and Whiting, who was by now a Facebook friend, even sent his congratulations via the social media site.

She returned to work in April 2014 before leaving for good in February last year to start a new job at another Eastbourne restaurant. Whiting, she says, wished her well in her new job and they parted on good terms.

Nikki refuses to believe that Whiting is remorseful. Photo / Facebook: @NikkiElliott
Nikki refuses to believe that Whiting is remorseful. Photo / Facebook: @NikkiElliott

With hindsight, Nikki actually knew little about him.

Born to a 16-year-old teenage mother in Surrey in March 1980, he was adopted as a baby by Jenny and Michael Whiting who divorced when he was a teenager. His adoptive father remarried and has another son from this second marriage.

Whiting later re-established contact with his birth mother who went on to marry and have a daughter, Whiting's half-sister Charley Hough, who is among his victims.

According to Nikki: "He mentioned an ex-girlfriend that he didn't get on with and a son that he wasn't allowed to see. He was very bitter about that. He had the boy's name tattooed on his arm.

"I wonder now if that's why he showed such hatred of pregnant women."

Two months after starting her new job, she received a Facebook message from a woman she didn't know, warning her that her Facebook photographs had been uploaded onto a pornography site.

"I couldn't believe it when I clicked on the site," says Nikki. "There was a screenshot of my Facebook page, so my name was there too and my profile picture with my then two-year-old daughter in it."

The image had been captioned "Daddy's Girl" and "Stuck Up Whore" and "Slut" and also carried the words: "Rape me". More than 7,000 people had viewed the images.

It didn't take Nikki long to work out who was behind the stolen images. The Facebook screenshot revealed that the person who had been viewing her page had been a Facebook friend since February 2012 and the porn site profile showed the user was 36 - the same age as Whiting at the time.

There were other clues too - photographs of other women, all of whom were also Facebook friends with Whiting. Some of the images had been doctored so that their heads had been merged with bodies of naked models.

There were pictures of family friend, Charlotte White, beneath which Whiting had written: "100 to rape her, 50 to get her pregnant and 20 to make her pregnant (sic)."

And naked photographs of an ex-girlfriend. But perhaps most sickening of all, were the school photographs Whiting posted of his half-sister Charley Hough with the caption "proper jailbait" as well as one of her aged 21 when she was pregnant, accompanied by the words: 'Now, my pregnant sister'.

There was also an incriminating pornographic photograph that Whiting had taken of himself which showed his hand bearing a distinctive silver ring he always wore.

Nikki contacted several of the other women involved to warn them and they agreed that rather than confront Whiting they would report him to the police. But Nikki says that when she did so by phone she was told that it was a 'Facebook issue' and that she should merely 'unfriend' Whiting.

Nikki's innocuous social media photos were taken and uploaded on porn websites based in America by Whiting. Photo / Facebook: NikkiElliott
Nikki's innocuous social media photos were taken and uploaded on porn websites based in America by Whiting. Photo / Facebook: NikkiElliott

She was given a crime reference number but when she telephoned a second time, she was told that it was a civil matter, not a criminal one, and the number was withdrawn and replaced with a 'report number'.

"I was told that I should see a solicitor," she says. "I was completely fobbed off."

In fact, Sussex Police did contact Whiting in relation to four of the women whose pictures had been stolen, including his ex-girlfriend and former friend 24-year-old care home worker Charlotte White, whose mother used to play darts with Whiting.

But, after he admitted what he had done, they decided not to prosecute him.

Instead, in April last year, he received a police caution for one offence of 'revenge porn' in relation to the naked images of his ex-girlfriend and three offences of sending offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing messages.

That decision provoked outrage among Whiting's other victims, including Nikki who received a telephone call from Sussex Police's Head of Crime, Detective Superintendant Nick May.

"At first he said that they couldn't find any record of my call," says Nikki. "But he promised to look into it again."

Whiting, was subsequently re-arrested and charged and at Hastings Magistrates' Court this week, he pleaded guilty to 11 offences of "making offensive postings", a crime which comes under the Communications Act 2003 and carries a six-month maximum sentence.

"Revenge porn" - officially known as the "sharing of sexual images and films with the intent to cause distress" and dealt with under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, carries a heavier maximum sentence of two years in jail.

Indeed, what Whiting's case shows clearly is that both the police and the CPS are limited by the way the law defines such crimes.

Since all his offences - except the naked images of his ex-girlfriend - involved innocuous every-day photographs which were then doctored or used in a sexual way, they are not covered by the Criminal Justice Act and were therefore treated as "malicious communications".

Despite uploading photos of at least 14 women, including Nikki, Whiting has not been put on the sex offenders' registry. Photo / Facebook
Despite uploading photos of at least 14 women, including Nikki, Whiting has not been put on the sex offenders' registry. Photo / Facebook

While Nikki believes that the law needs to be changed to deal effectively with offenders like Whiting, she also says that had Sussex Police dealt with all his victims together and not simply cautioned him last year, he would in all likelihood have received a more substantial custodial sentence.

Following Whiting's appearance in court this week, Detective Superintendant Nick May posted a Tweet saying: "Thanks to the perseverance of the victims".

In a statement he said: "We learnt a number of lessons from this case and it did highlight the need for us to understand the impact that such incidents can have on the victims."

He said that several of the women involved had helped to produce a training video to help Sussex Police "improve the service we offer in such cases".

None of this, of course, is any comfort to Nikki whose pleas for help in getting her photographs removed from the porn site have fallen on deaf ears.

In court it emerged that the U.S. website, which is based in Arizona, has refused to take down the pictures of the victims despite being approached by police and informed they were the subject of criminal proceedings in the UK.

Sussex Police says that it cannot remove the images because the site is out of their jurisdiction.

In desperation, Nikki contacted law enforcement agencies in Arizona asking for help but was referred to the FBI. Federal agents asked her to email her concerns and she did so several months ago but has heard nothing back.

"It's awful that I have to do this myself," she says. "I can't move on while I still have this hanging over me, knowing there is a photograph of my daughter on that website."

Laura Higgins of the UK Safer Internet Centre which runs a "Revenge Porn Helpline" for victims, says: "The police are on the back foot when it comes to digital crime," she says.

"They need to make this a priority. They need better training and guidance and more empathy with victims."

The case has also angered Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell who is demanding further action is taken. "It's absolutely appalling these pictures remain online because it is so devastating for victims and an outrage to justice," she says.

"There is something very wrong when this is allowed to happen and I will be speaking to the relevant minister again to find out what more pressure can be brought by the Government with the Americans to get these pictures taken down.

"My view is the law needs to be changed to force perpetrators like Whiting to take down revenge porn images or face new charges and serious financial penalties if they fail to do so.

"We must get tough on dealing with this growing problem because having these images posted ruins lives for years and is plain wicked."

This week, Whiting, who posted 1,162 photos or messages in a period of just eight months, was hiding behind closed doors at his mother's smart £300,000 detached house on the outskirts in Eastbourne.

According to 69-year-old Jenny Whiting, her son is 'extremely remorseful' over the incident and had tried desperately to get the images removed from the American website.

"He has tried contacting the website to get the pictures taken down but they couldn't. He has also tried speaking to Sussex Police but they couldn't get them taken down either."

The retired company secretary added: "He is very sorry about what he did and regrets it enormously. He made a mistake, for which he has apologised, and is very remorseful.

"He has apologised. It has been a very difficult time for everyone and he just wants to move on and put it behind him."

Not that Nikki can. She remains unconvinced that Whiting is remorseful. She recalls the moment he made eye contact with her at the end of his hearing this week.

"Nearly everyone had left court and I was talking to one of the CPS lawyers," she says.

"I suddenly felt as if someone was watching me and I turned round and he was just standing there, staring at me. He was defiant. It was really menacing. I didn't see any remorse in his eyes."