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  1. ITV Report

More than 500 children identified as victims of online sex abuse

Credit: PA

More than 500 children, some as young as three, have been identified as potential victims of online sexual abuse during a major police investigation.

As many as 30 million indecent images were recovered during Police Scotland's Operation Lattise, which has resulted in 77 people being charged so far.

Charges included rape, sharing indecent images of children, sexual extortion and grooming and indecent communication with children.

Of the 523 "victims or potential victims", 122 have been referred to child protection services.

Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable (Major Crime and Public Protection), Malcolm Graham, said:

Online child sexual abuse is a national threat – the reality is it is happening now, not only in Scotland but across the world, to children of all ages, from infants to teenagers.

Operation Lattise was about shining a light on the scale of this issue. It was focused activity to tackle the many forms of online child sexual abuse by identifying those who pose a risk to children online and, more importantly, identifying victims of online sexual abuse and exploitation, as well as preventing more youngsters becoming victims.

Online child sexual abuse is not a victimless crime: children, from toddlers to teenagers, are being sexually abused and exploited now in Scotland and when an image or video clip is shared or viewed, they are being re-victimised.

– Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable, Malcolm Graham

Mark McDonald, Early Years Minister, said: “Children and young people should be able to enjoy and learn from the internet, but we also want them to stay in control and know what to do and who to go to if they feel at risk.

“Keeping children safe is a priority for both Police Scotland and the Scottish Government, so although there are many positive aspects to the online world I recognise there are also risks we have to be aware of.

"The outcomes of the operation will help to inform our Child Protection Improvement Programme, where child internet safety and tackling child sexual exploitation is a priority.”