Police tracking child-sex offenders may be given new jobs to cut stress

By Pat Hurst
Sunday 06 October 2013 05:27

The length of time that police officers are posted to the country's top anti-paedophile unit is under review because of concerns about the pressures the job places on detectives.

The review comes amid concerns about the welfare of officers whose jobs involve routinely looking at images of children being tortured, humiliated and sexually abused.

But suggestions that the officers be rotated from the Metropolitan Police paedophile unit to other jobs have been criticised by a former head of the unit. Such a rotation would seriously damage the search for child abusers, said Bob McLachlan, a former detective chief inspector who headed the unit from 1989 until last year.

The suggested changes would not be welcomed by detectives themselves, claimed the News of the World.

The force confirmed that a management review of the unit - part of the force's child protection command, a department of 420 officers - was under way.

"The length of time officers generally spend attached to the paedophile unit is currently being reviewed due to the nature of the work they undertake," said a police spokeswoman.

The unit's undercover work led to the jailing earlier this month of a trainee teacher, Luke Sadowski, who tried to procure via the internet a nine-year-old girl for sex.

Experts have said the personal effect on officers who are responsible for hunting paedophiles should not be underestimated.

But any review involving moving detectives is not welcome among child protection officers, according to reports. Plans to move all the detectives currently in the unit to new duties by the end of the year would deprive the unit of a wealth of experience - and could put children at risk, the News of the World claimed.

Scotland Yard said it was now "actively recruiting new members of staff" to replace them.

Mr McLachlan said changing the current set-up would be a backward step. "Any change in the current set-up will put policing [of] predatory paedophiles back 10 years."

Concerns have already been raised about the police response to paedophile crime under Operation Ore - which disclosed about 7,000 child sex suspects, most of them previously unknown to the authorities.