Hundreds held in global abuse investigation

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The Independent Online

More than 120 suspected paedophiles have been arrested in Britain as part of one of the biggest global investigations ever mounted into child abuse networks on the internet, police said today.







Across the world 670 paedophile suspects have been identified and a total of 184 arrests made - two thirds in the UK - as part of Operation Rescue, which has been running for more than three years.



The latest arrest was yesterday in Northamptonshire, it was revealed at a press conference in The Hague, headquarters of Europol, which co-ordinated a police crackdown involving forces in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, America and the UK.



The massive inquiry was headed by the UK's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).







CEOP's boss, UK police chief Peter Davies, was at today's news conference to announce that 230 children had been identified as victims of child abuse and rescued as a result of "very serious crimes on a truly global basis".



Mr Davies said: "The scale and success of Operation Rescue has broken new ground.



"Not only is it one of the largest operations of its kind to date, and the biggest we have led, it also demonstrates the impact of international law enforcement agencies working together with one single objective - to safeguard children and bring offenders to justice.



"The paedophile suspects belonged to an online forum - boylover.net - operated from a server based in the Netherlands. The website, which has now been shut down, had 70,000 members and attempted to run a 'discussion-only' exchange to share members' sexual interests in young boys without committing specific offences.



"But some members used the contacts established on the site to set up more private links with other members to exchange and share illegal images and films of child abuse.



"What we have shown today is that while these offenders felt anonymous in some way because they were using the internet to communicate, the technology was actually being used against them.



"Everything they did online, everyone they talked to or anything they shared could be, and was, tracked by following the digital footprint."









CEOP senior investigating officer Kelvin Lay said most of the hundreds of users of the site who had already been investigated as child abuse suspects were likely to be arrested: "The latest arrest was in Northamptonshire yesterday, and some other people can expect a knock on the door at any time."



The original website which triggered Operation Rescue attracted all sorts of people, Europol director Rob Wainwright said.



There were school teachers, taxi drivers, IT consultants - a cross section of professional workers drawn together by boylover.net.



Mr Lay said some were scout masters and one, already charged with child abuse offences, was a karate instructor.