Ninety-nine arrested in paedophile abuse raids

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Media captionDet Con Claire Gettings explains how police conduct a raid on suspected distributors of child abuse images: Video courtesy Ceop

A retired teacher, members of the armed forces and a scout leader are among 99 people arrested in raids targeting online paedophiles.

About 140 search warrants were issued by some 40 forces during the UK-wide raids, led by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

Most warrants related to downloading and sharing indecent images.

Some 80 children were removed from harm, including 20 found at raided properties.

Operation Tharsley took place over 48 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday, with support from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca).

Sex offender breaches

Those arrested include a pathologist, a firefighter, an activities instructor, government employees, and a referee.

Known offenders who had breached the conditions of the sex offenders register were also held.

Forty-two forces from around the UK made the following arrests:

  • Lancashire Police arrested nine people
  • Two men were held in Northern Ireland
  • Two were arrested on Merseyside
  • Police in Dorset made two arrests
  • Three were arrested by Warwickshire and West Mercia officers
  • In Kent, four men were arrested in Maidstone, Gillingham, Rochester and Herne Bay
  • North Yorkshire Police arrested four; South Yorkshire Police held nine men
  • Two people were held in Peterlee and Bishop Auckland in County Durham
  • Northumbria Police arrested four men - three from Gateshead, and one from Washington
  • Devon and Cornwall Police held two in Cornwall and one in Plymouth
  • Gloucestershire officers arrested one Newent man
  • Police in Wiltshire arrested two men in Swindon and Great Bedwyn
  • West Midlands Police in Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Solihull, Sandwell and Dudley arrested three and "safeguarded" four children
  • Thames Valley Police made two arrests
  • Jersey Police held one man
  • Strathclyde Police arrested three
  • Sussex Police arrested a Bexhill man
  • Four men were held by Hampshire Police
  • Two men were arrested near Lincoln and Sleaford
  • Avon and Somerset officers held two men
  • Cleveland Police arrested two men in the Middlesbrough area
  • Humberside Police arrested a man in New Waltham, North East Lincolnshire
  • Cumbria Police raided a Carlisle house, but made no arrests

Abuse link

Officers seized laptop computers, USB storage devices, and digital cameras, according to Ceop's deputy chief executive, Andy Baker.

Mr Baker said pictures would be scrutinised to see identify victims using clues in the background.

"Every image is a crime scene," he added.

Meanwhile, Ceop published a report on risks posed by people who download indecent images of children.

It reported a correlation between the viewing of abusive images and sex attacks being committed against children.

'Sadistic, violent'

Principal analyst at Ceop, Kate Fisher, said abusive internet images were becoming "more extreme, sadistic and violent, and feature increasingly younger children".

Ceop called for police to prioritise investigating suspects who had easy access to children.

Christian Sjoberg of NetClean, which aims to prevent child sexual abuse content, said: "As police cuts hit home and case volumes increase, crime-fighting agents attempting to tackle the problem are finding their resources stretched."

"Sophisticated internet use makes the job of child protection increasingly complex, but technology can also hold the key to finding and preventing those who create and distribute this kind of material."

The raids come as the UK government announces a draft bill to allow details of internet use to be stored for a year, enabling intelligence services to track crime with modern technology.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: "Communications data is vital for the police in their fight against crime, including serious offences such as child abuse, drug dealing and terrorism."

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