20 police forces in major Internet child porn swoop

Click to follow
The Independent Online
POLICE OFFICERS from 20 forces carried out the largest operation of its kind against Internet child pornography yesterday. Computers were seized and 16 arrests were made after warrants were executed at 27 locations in England, Scotland and Wales.

The arrests were the culmination of a six-month operation, codenamed Queensland, by Greater Manchester Police's obscene publications unit. County Durham Police, among other forces, confirmed the arrest of a man on suspicion of possessing indecent photographs of children.

Hertfordshire Police said a man aged 43 was arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting the distribution and making of child pornography. Another man who was arrested was prosecuted earlier this year for possession of child pornography, following a police operation in April. At that time he was already on the sex offenders' register. Police said many of those arrested yesterday were previously unknown to them or social services.

Superintendent Peter Driver, of the obscene publications unit, which has seized 30,000 images depicting explicit sexual abuse of children this year alone, said: "Those convicted often have no record. They believe the Internet gives them the cloak of anonymity, though we now believe we can pursue them wherever they are."

Since it began investigating Internet paedophilia four years ago, the unit has discovered appalling examples of child abuse, some of which include moving images and sound. Operation Queensland was unusual because officers worked with no prior intelligence - just computers. They examined e-mail files, to which pornographic images are sometimes attached, and popular chat forums, through which pornography can be passed. A full assessment of the images seized yesterday could take months, but police confirmed that many indecent images of children were found on two machines at homes in Stalybridge and Timperley in the Manchester area.

The force's priority is to explore the links between the images seized and the abuse of children. At least one child was rescued after Operation Kimbe in April, in which police used computer images to identify 19 people involved in child abuse. Some have been prosecuted. The detectives who will examine the computers seized yesterday say images of paedophilia cannot be eradicated. After deletion, they can still be detected in the hard drive's "free space".

Detective Sergeant John Ashley, of Greater Manchester police's computer examination unit, said: "`Delete' never means `delete'."

Comments