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WHSmith's vile trade in online rape porn: Bookseller apologises after sales of sick ebooks

WHSmith was last night accused of profiting from the sale of vile books glorifying violent pornography, rape, incest and bestiality.

The high street chain openly advertised titles with disturbingly graphic content on its website, right next to children’s literature.

Typing the word ‘daddy’ into the search box, for instance, brings up disturbing fictional accounts of bondage and sexual humiliation, as well as collections of bedtime stories for youngsters.

After The Mail on Sunday alerted WHSmith to the appalling content freely available on its website, executives took the unprecedented decision to take the whole site offline while the explicit ebooks were removed from sale.

‘We will tighten our processes to ensure that this error can never happen again and sincerely apologise to our customers for any offence caused,’ the company said in a statement.

The Mail on Sunday investigation found that pornographic ebooks – the majority of which are self-published by their authors – are also available through Amazon, Waterstones and Barnes & Noble.

Yesterday afternoon more than 60 were available on the WHSmith site.

Some included graphic descriptions of incest, with titles such as Pregnant With Daddy.

Elsewhere, there were stories about disturbing sex attacks – one described the rape of a ‘teen  virgin’ by three teachers at school.

Politicians, charities and campaigners reacted with disbelief last night.

John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee said: ‘It is disgusting that WHSmith, one of the country’s most respected retailers, is selling hardcore pornography alongside children’s books.

‘Retailers have a responsibility to families and it is unacceptable that anyone could access this material within a click of a mouse.’

The National Crime Agency warned yesterday that material appearing to legitimise child abuse ‘might feed the fantasies of  paedophiles and in some cases encourage child sexual abusers to commit contact offences.’

Justine Roberts of the parenting website Mumsnet said the books ‘glorified’ rape and incest, adding: ‘You would not expect to be able to access so easily hardcore pornography alongside children’s books.’

The scandal follows a pledge David Cameron made in July to make the internet safe for children and crack down on online pornography.

Almost all the titles on Amazon and WHSmith’s website appear to violate the terms and conditions booksellers set themselves.

Some of the material is filtered by Amazon, but the online retailer also sells an ebook instructing users on which search terms to use to find the more extreme material.

Many of the titles feature cynical caveats, such as assurances the girls involved are over 18 and that rapes are never carried out by ‘blood relations’. In most of the ‘incest erotica’ books the perpetrator is a stepfather, though invariably referred to as ‘daddy’ in the text.

WHSmith said last night: ‘We were made aware last week that a number of unacceptable titles were appearing on the Kobo website that has an automated feed to ours. This is totally unacceptable and we in no way whatsoever condone them.

‘We are urgently working with our ebook partner, Kobo, to remove them from our websites as soon as possible. We will tighten our processes to ensure that this error can never happen again and sincerely apologise to our customers for any offence caused.’

It is understood Amazon began  selling the ebooks in 2011 and WHSmith a year later. Barnes & Noble said its offensive titles were also ‘in the process of  being removed’.

The company added: ‘When there are violations to the content policy that are brought to our attention, either through our internal process or from a customer or external source, we have a rapid response team in place to appropriately categorise or remove the content in accordance with our policy.’

Waterstones said: ‘As with other bookselling websites, Waterstones takes a feed from central databases of book publications, notably Nielsen. Any of these titles can then be ordered by a customer. We do not stock in our shops or in our warehouses for internet supply any of these titles and we have never had any ordered from us in the past.

Now that we are aware of the  theoretical ability of a customer to order such titles by fact of their  listing by Nielsen, we will investigate with them how this might  be avoided.’

When contacted by The Mail on Sunday, Amazon claimed: ‘These books are not available on Amazon.co.uk’, in reference only to works that had already been brought to  its attention.

The retailers would not provide sales figures, however the authors of one book, entitled 10 Sexy Stories, an anthology featuring ‘reluctant sex’ scenes claims its writers sold more than 300,000 copies in 2012.

Last night the Ministry of Justice said the retailers would be liable for prosecution if a judge deemed that the ebooks breached the Obscene Publications Act.

The National Crime Agency said: ‘There is a need to think about criminalising the paedophilic written word in the same way as child abuse imagery and virtual images of children.

‘In the meantime, businesses who are aware that they are involved in the sharing of potentially paedophilic material can of course look to their consciences or consider the impact on their reputation.’

 

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