More than a million child pornography images have been recovered from the Internet since the National Crime Squad helped to break the largest known child-sex ring on the Internet - called Wonderland - in September. Police confirmed yesterday that they are considering the unprecedented move of publicising the children's faces on television and in newspapers.
Even though their identities are protected by law, police feel they have to publish the images to try to identify the children, one of whom is a child less than a year old.
Detective Superintendent John Stewardson, of the National Crime Squad, said: "It is the only way I can think of to try to find out who these children are. The primary concern has to be to stop the abuse."
Police from 12 countries, including Britain, will meet in the new year to decide how to identify the 400 children. A spokeswoman for the National Crime Squad said: "These children could be anywhere in the world. As soon as we took over the operation we knew we were up against it trying to identify these kids. We are trying to protect them. We have to find out who these children are; they could still be in danger. We will be taking advice and working with child protection officers.
"We have recovered hundreds of thousands of images of children. They are horrendous, and it is difficult to tell how many are the same children just at different angles, but we think there are between 300 and 400 different youngsters.
"One of the children looks about a year old and another looks about three. We haven't even decided how and where to publicise them, which is why we are calling everybody together."
The international police investigation started in San Jose, California, in May 1996, after a child complained her friend's father had molested her.
In September this year there were co-ordinated arrests in 12 countries including Britain, America, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Denmark and Holland after the homes of more than 100 suspects were raided.
The spokeswoman for the National Crime Squad, which was formed in April to carry out international investigations into well-known criminals living abroad, said: "It was a phenomenal exercise of co-ordination to carry out searches and arrests in all the countries without the members of the group knowing about it."
Eleven people were arrested in Britain in connection with the Wonderland paedophile ring. They have been bailed until 18 November.
Although police are not sure how old the images are, the spokeswoman said they looked fairly new, and are likely to have been taken in the last few years.Reuse content