Scout leader and foster carer among 59 suspected paedophiles

The child abuse investigation focused on people using the 'dark web'

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A scout leader, a foster carer and an ex-police officer are among 59 people arrested in Wales as part of a UK-wide operation against suspected paedophiles.

The six-month-long inquiry targeted people accessing indecent images of children online.

Several of those arrested had unsupervised access to children.

Across the UK a total 660 people were arrested and more than 400 children safeguarded.

Start Quote

Offenders need to know that the internet is not a safe anonymous space for accessing indecent images, that they leave a digital footprint, and that law enforcement will find it”

End Quote Nikki Holland South Wales Police

Of the 59 arrests in Wales, two were registered sex offenders and two are thought to have since killed themselves, according to police.

So far, 12 in south and mid Wales have been charged with offences of possession and distribution of indecent images of children. Figures for North Wales have not yet been released.

South Wales Police has overseen the operation covering its own area as well as Dyfed-Powys and Gwent police force areas. North Wales Police worked separately.

It says 42 children have been protected, and 16 more safeguarded - referred to social services.

'Unprecedented increase'

South Wales Police Assistant Chief Constable for specialist crime Nikki Holland said: "They have come from all force areas and all walks of life. Only two were registered sex offenders.

"[The others] may have come to the attention of the police for other matters but nothing involving child abuse."

She added: "A key message from the police in this operation is it clearly demonstrates that we can police the internet and people can't go on the internet and view child images without being caught."

There were no patterns to the offending among the people arrested, she said, adding: "We have not found paedophile rings."

South Wales Police Assistant Chief Constable Nikki Holland: "We can police the internet"

She urged parents to ensure their children were using the internet safely and that they had adequate controls on their computers.

"Know what your children are doing, and protect your children," she advised.

She said nationally there had been an "unprecedented increase" in the number of reports of sexual abuse of children.

"Children are victimised not only when they are abused and an image is first taken, they are victimised repeatedly every time that image is viewed.

"We also know that people who start by accessing indecent images online can then go on to abuse children directly.

"So the operation is not only about catching people who have already offended, it is about influencing potential offenders before they cross that line."

The whole operation was co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and involved 45 police forces across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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