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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
Paedophile net raids across UK
Police say paedophiles cannot hide on the internet
The biggest ever operation against internet paedophiles in the United Kingdom has been carried out by 34 police forces.

Officers simultaneously raided 75 addresses across the country, with large amounts of computer equipment seized for examination.

The number of arrests is unclear, but includes a 15-year-old boy and people involved in care work, teaching and medicine.

Operation Magenta was the result of a six-month investigation and concentrated on people who use internet chat rooms to advertise and trade in child abuse images.

It's important to realise that behind every image of child porn is a child who has been sexually abused


Police said they believed many of those involved in swapping images may also be directly responsible for child abuse.

Detectives were able to make use of specialist equipment to trace computers being used by people entering the chat rooms anonymously.

Among the arrests were seven in Wales, six in London, two in Manchester, two in Cheshire and one in Merseyside.

The number is expected to rise as the contents of the computer hard drives and disks are examined.

'Immense damage'

The raids were co-ordinated by Hertfordshire Constabulary's Child Protection and Investigation Unit and the Abusive Images Unit from Greater Manchester Police.

In Scotland, the operation involved the Strathclyde, Northern, Tayside and Grampian forces.

Strathclyde Police said it had executed five warrants and Grampian Police searched a house in the Banchory area, near Aberdeen.

In Northern Ireland, police seized two computers and a number of disks during a search of a house in Antrim town.
The NSPCC says the effects of abuse last into adulthood

Supporting the police raids NSPCC policy advisor Christine Atkinson said: "It's important to realise that behind every image of child porn is a child who has been sexually abused.

"The NSPCC knows that children suffer not only the sexual abuse, but suffer again knowing that their abuse has been recorded and that those images are now available around the world via the internet."

Inspector Keith Tilley, head of the Hertfordshire unit, said he was also concerned about the close link between those distributing and making the images.

He said some child abusers were known to have started by looking at pictures on the internet.

'New insight'

Following the raids Inspector Tilley said: "What we are also mindful of... is that potentially there could be a child at risk of abuse."

He said a risk assessment would be carried out on any adults with access to the computers seized, adding: "The message is that these people are a danger to children."

Detective Inspector Terry Jones of Greater Manchester Police said officers were particularly concerned about how young some of those involved were.

He insisted that police were up to the challenge of tackling child abuse on the internet, despite its prolific growth.

DI Jones said 12 child porn images were seized in 1995, compared to 41,000 in 1999 and many more now. "We have just stopped counting," he added.

"The internet has made child abuse images commonplace. We are getting a new insight into what's going on behind closed doors and it's very disturbing."

DI Jones added: "Instead of being locked away in a council estate or wherever, they are effectively coming out to use the internet - and that's when we get them."

The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"The most shocking aspect: the professions and ages of those involved"
Internet Watch Foundation's Roger Darlington
"We can't stop users in the UK accessing material outside the UK"
Surfcontrol Chief Executive, Steve Purdham
"We produced software specifically for the police"
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