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24 September 2014
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 Inside Out - Yorkshire & Lincolnshire: Monday October 4, 2004


Paul Grout at the scene of a train crash
Paul Grout was one of Yorkshire's finest rescue doctors

Dr Paul Grout was one of those men who often risked his life for those of his patients and strangers alike. But all that changed when, thanks to an invisible predator, he was arrested and charged with an offence that left him an outcast.

Paul Grout was one of the east coast's flying doctors who regularly put the public's safety before his own.

Few people know that the daring doctor in the helicopter was also in fact one of the top trauma doctors in the country.

When the rail disaster at Great Heck caused chaos in the region it was the Senior Consultant from Hull Royal Infirmary, who was first to enter the wreckage.

Ten people died in that accident, yet it could have been plenty more without the assistance of people like Paul Grout.

Yet Paul is no longer called out to emergencies, thanks to an event that would turn his life upside down.

Unwelcome visitor

In October 2002 three police officers came to pay Paul a visit.

Thinking it was one of the customary inquiries by police regarding accidents and arrests, Paul wasn't concerned - until they made it very clear there were there to arrest him.

"I was put into a car and then driven off to Goole Police Station," Paul remembers.

"I felt it was all going to be sorted out very quickly as I just couldn't believe anything was actually amiss."
Paul Grout

His first reaction was that it was all a big mistake, but he also felt hugely embarrassed at being taken into custody.

But Dr Paul Grout was charged with keeping child pornography images.

He had become the latest suspect in Operation Ore, an international investigation in paedophile offences.

FBI agents had linked Paul's computer and credit card details to child pornography sites in the US.

Susie Grout
Paul's wife Susie says it was mayhem when officers searched her house

Back in Yorkshire, Paul's wife Susie was woken by a knock on the door.

She was confronted by seven officers wanting to search her home, which they did, from top to bottom.

No stone was left unturned as officers searched their house, stables and outbuildings.

Police seized computers and files from the home, which Paul only got back in mid 2004.

Proving his innocence

Paul was certain he had done nothing wrong, but the big question was whether he was going to be able to prove it.

To many he was guilty until proven innocent.

It was a difficult time for both Paul and Susie. "We've lost friends through it but you certainly know who your friends are," says Susie.

At the time the couple found it difficult to deal with so-called friends slowly drifting out of their lives.

The process of court appearances also began to take their toll on Paul. He became stressed and overwhelmed by the accusations.

Within weeks, the high profile leader of Hull Royal Infirmary's trauma team had been sacked, despite the fact the trial was yet to take place.

Paul and Susie Grout at court
The public were quick to condemn Paul even before trial

In April 2004 Paul's case finally made it to trial.

The media frenzy awaited Paul and Susie as they arrived at court.

"It was really like running the gauntlet to get in, it was head down get through it really," Paul says.

Not one pornographic image was found on any of Paul's computers, but the FBI had detailed evidence of where and when illegal images were accessed and this was enough to convince the prosecution that there was a charge to answer.

But the dates and times just didn't add up. Paul Grout's electronic computer diary became his alibi.

"I was able to show that at one of the times I was supposed to have carried out these activities I was actually seeing a person at a prison."

Paul was able to dismiss other dates that were listed by providing a concrete alibi for each. In one instance Paul was actually conducting a police custody officer training course.

On the second day of the trail an expert witness testified that Paul was probably the victim of a computer hacker.

So it seems Paul was only guilty of being careless with his computer. Numerous colleagues at the hospital knew his password - Biggles - and his constantly left his wallet in his jacket pocket when he changed into "scrubs".

But could he convince the court?

"I felt from the start it was an uphill struggle," admits Paul, but he kept going and was dramatically cleared.

After four days the judge threw out the case and Paul walked away a free man, but how could it have happened and who set him up?

Hacked off

Gary O'Leary-Steele is a hacker. He can crack your password in a matter of minutes and could discover your personal details without batting an eyelid.

Gary shows how easy it is to hack into a computer
Gary O'Leary-Steele says it can take just seconds to hack into someone's system

Luckily he is one of the good guys. Gary is what the industry calls a "white hacker". He works with large companies to try stop "black hackers", like the one who set Paul up, in their tracks.

Gary shows Inside Out just how easily some computer systems are to hack into and how it probably happened to Paul.

Inside Out sets up a computer system to emulate the one Paul was using at the hospital at the time he was arrested.

Gary set himself up as a potential hacker on the same network, in other words - in the same building as Paul.

Paul goes ahead and logs in and within seconds Gary has cracked the password, which gives him access to any information Paul may have on his computer.

"It's not much more than clicking buttons really," explains Gary. "There's no elite programming that needs to be done.

"Any user who knows computers could break a password like this."

There's no doubt this is worrying information for anyone who uses a computer.

Lucky escape

How it happened is purely academic to the Grouts. They both know he could be in jail now if he wasn't able to nullify the evidence from the FBI.

"My heart goes out to anyone who is in that situation and I wouldn't wish that on anybody.

"We had 18 months of pure hell," says Susie.

Paul and RAF officer training
Although he is no longer a "flying doctor" Paul is using his experience to train others

Although Paul was cleared of all charges Hull Royal Infirmary refused to reinstate him as they already filled the position.

Not surprisingly Paul is angry. He has settled out of court with the hospital but the whole episode leaves a sour taste in his mouth.

However Paul Grout is, if nothing else, an optimist and says amazingly enough he has taken some positives from the experience.

"I am now free to move onto newer things, things that I really enjoy doing."

He is now passing on his medical skills by conducting medical training for the RAF's air sea rescue crews.

Paul's story is a frightening one, which proves just how vulnerable we are.

If you would like more information on staying safe on computers take a look at our Cyber Security Guide.

See also ...

News - Doctor Acquitted

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Anon - Hertfordshire
My family and I have just been through all this. We have been completely vindidcated and no charges were ever brought but you cannot talk to anyone at all about it because mud sticks. Our neighbours no longer talk to us and we are trying to move. They have no idea what the police raid was about but will no doubt have made up their own minds in given our silence on the subject. How can you explain something like that and expect them to understand. With this type of crime it is all Guilty until innocent and even then there must always be suspicion.

Daniel Grout
I am always upset when people blame the "hackers," without considering the truth of the situation. It sounds a lot like blaming terrorists for throwing people in jail without a trial. The majority of computer crime is defacement based and the risk from "hackers" is overplayed. It needs to be noted that the alleged offence occurred in 1999 and the tools that Mr Steele demonstrated (I am assuming he snarfed an un-encrypted password using an ethernet password sniffer) were not available as Windows based apps (as a rule) due to the fact that only Windows XP allows raw sockets via winsock, thus allowing RAD tools such as VB the ability to develop such "hacking" software. So his demonstration, when placed in the context of the case, is null and void.

John Knight
Did the Police check all the Hospital computers? Has this 'Hacker' been found?

Tiffany Grout
I haven't seen my uncle in about 15 years, But I am truly sorry for the hell he has had to go through.

EXACTLY the same thing happened to me. My credit card number was used to access child a pornography site. At the time of use I was caravanning in Wales. No evidence was ever found. It's an absolute disgrace!

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