Beverley Minster virger backs web publisher
A CHURCH official at Beverley Minster has backed a town web publisher who has been linked with thousands of pornographic sites.
It comes after the Mail revealed Paul Smith, who launched Beverley community website HU17.net, also helped design graphic adult sites.
Beverley Minster virger Neil Pickford is among those who have moved to support Mr Smith, saying he has "no problems" with the web publisher and his activities.
Launched last year, HU17.net has photographs of junior sports fixtures as well as news events.
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It includes images taken by Paul Smith.
A Mail investigation found Mr Smith is the director of Smiths Media Solutions, which designs adult sites. There is no suggestion they contain illegal material.
The web design business was formed in 2004 and is registered to the same address in Beverley as the respectable HU17.net.
Mr Smith does not identify himself as being linked to Smiths Media Solutions in the same way as he promotes himself as being involved with HU17.net
When an undercover Mail reporter, posing as an escort girl, approached him to design a website, he agreed to do it for between £150 and £250.
Following the news, there were hundreds of comments on the Mail's website and HU17.net
One of those commenting was the Minster virger – a church official who acts as a caretaker and attendant.
Mr Pickford told the Mail: "HU17.net is very worthwhile and we've found Paul to be an extremely enthusiastic promoter of life and events in Beverley.
"We are happy to continue supplying information to the website in the future."
Mr Pickford, who has a column on the Mail's Beverleylocal website, said: "Providing Paul's activities are legal, then I have no problems with him at all."
In a recent East Riding Council press release, community groups in the town were urged to send event details to Mr Smith for inclusion on his HU17.net website.
East Riding Council leader Councillor Stephen Parnaby said: "What the Mail has unearthed is clearly unacceptable. I want to know how we became involved with this website. I aim to find out what we knew and what we did not know about this man."
Mr Smith advised Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart over technical aspects of his website. Although the Mail tried to contact Mr Stuart prior to our story, we were unsuccessful.
However, Mr Stuart said: "I think it's absolutely disgraceful and appalling to run a story like that mentioning me in the second paragraph without getting in touch with me. It is a sleazy unpleasant story that attacks a bloke running a Beverley website."
Until this week, Mr Smith was also a member of the Beverley Economy and Tourism Group – a sub group of the Beverley Renaissance Partnership – which promotes the town to visitors.
The Mail contacted Mr Smith last night to ask him what he thought about the public reaction to our story, but he did not want to comment.