Almost 80 people were arrested today in raids targeting suspected internet paedophiles.
Officers from more than 40 police forces executed more than 143 warrants in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in a 48-hour operation led by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).
The operation came on the day CEOP warned that men and women who downloaded child abuse images online posed a significant risk of committing physical sex attacks on children: One analysis showed 55% of paedophiles who possess indecent images also commit sexual offences against children.
The centre also warned that the volume and depravity of images of abused children being shared had increased substantially.
– Kate Fisher, principle analyst at CEOP
The images being downloaded are increasingly becoming more extreme, sadistic and violent, and feature increasingly younger children.
Chris Choi reports on the arrests made earlier today.
What is making life harder for the agency is the evolution of technology and the internet: paedophiles have more ways of contacting a victim and more options for storing and hiding material.
Referrals to the child protection agency are up 180%, but they are struggling due to the 20% cuts on policing planned over the next two years.
CEOP wants police forces to prioritise the investigation of anyone caught with child abuse images who has easy access to children.
– Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP)
In a perfect world all IIOC (indecent images of children) possession cases would be subject to a comprehensive, quick time investigation as soon as intelligence comes to the attention of law enforcement.
However in a time where resource is sparse and priorities continually modified, this has become increasingly unachievable.
Anyone who possesses IIOC poses a risk of committing contact sexual offences against children.
Cases where it has been identified that an IIOC possession suspect has access to children should be actioned as an immediate priority."