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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 September, 2004, 08:04 GMT 09:04 UK
Australia makes child porn sweep
Computer screen
Some of the material seized dated back 20 years
More than 150 people have been charged with child pornography offences in the biggest crackdown in Australia.

Mike Phelan, head of the Australian High Tech Crime Centre, said hundreds more will eventually face charges.

Teachers, police officers, a child care centre owner and employees of former and present members of state parliament were among them.

More than 2m images were seized, involving children aged 2-16, after raids across the country.

Seven children in Brisbane being abused by a paedophile were identified as part of the police operation. They had been systematically abused for several years by a paedophile who lived in the same area, police said.

"This is a heinous crime that involves real people," Mr Phelan said.

"It has involved high-risk professions and those involved in contact with children including health care professionals, education officials, department officials and those working within the education environment as well as law enforcement officers," Mr Phelan said.

1: Queensland - 55
2: New South Wales - 42
3: Australian Capital Territory - unknown number
4: Victoria - unknown number
5: Tasmania - unknown number
6: South Australia - 7
7: Western Australia - 21
8: Northern Territory - 9

Justice Minister Chris Ellison said 2,000 charges would be laid, including child sex tourism, sex abuse, and possessing, downloading or distributing child pornographic images.

Mr Phelan said Operation Auxin started last week and followed an investigation launched in March.

He said it involved police raids on homes across Australia and was based on intelligence from the US Customs service about a network of internet sites in Russia and eastern Europe.

Most of the images seized, he said, originated overseas. But Australian police have also discovered a number of photographic studios in suburban homes apparently designed for the production of child pornography

In the Northern Territory alone, police seized more than 10,000 images and 31 computer hard drives.

"(They) are the most extreme that we have ever seen here in the territory," NT Organised and Major Crime Squad acting commander Colleen Gwynne said.

"I'm not willing to describe what both myself and my investigators have had to view over the past few months. Most of the images appear to be (from) overseas but we can't rule out that some of the images weren't taken here in Australia."

Justice Minister Chris Ellison said: "The scale of this operation and the fact that a number of professionals who work with children in positions of trust have been charged by police is concerning.

"It demonstrates that with child pornography, you are dealing with people who will go to great lengths to work in with each other.

"The network is extensive and very sophisticated. You are dealing with the sort of criminal here who is normally intelligent and goes to great lengths to cover their tracks."

Some of the pornographic material dated back 20 years.

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