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Thursday, 11 January, 2001, 10:02 GMT
Police tighten net on child porn
Police hope to trace thousands of abused children
Technical advances and cyber-policing will help the fight against internet paedophile rings such as the Wonderland Club, police say.

Seven men in the UK have admitted their part in the worldwide pornography network which demanded 10,000 indecent pictures of children as an entry fee.

Police say new funding and laws will help them tackle similar groups in the future and also hope it will help them trace the thousands of children in the images recovered from the Wonderland network.

These are seriously messed up people who need to be locked away to protect children

Internet adviser John Carr
Bob Packham, deputy director general of the National Crime Squad, said the club used techniques such as encryption to operate a secure system with very strict rules of entry.

He said the Wonderland case served as a warning to society and said tackling cyber-pornography was going to get more difficult.

"But this operation has demonstrated the capability of law enforcement, not just in this country but world wide," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Last year Home Secretary Jack Straw announced a 25m package to develop new policing resources, including a "high tech crime unit" which starts in April.

Gavin Seagers
Wonderland member Gavin Seagers hides his face
John Carr, internet adviser for NCH Action for Children, said criminals and paedophiles in particular learned very quickly how to exploit technological advances.

"With more resources and better trained policemen and we can get them and get them out," he told BBC News 24.

"We do need more and better technical solutions both to help the police and to help parents protect their children and make sure they never get involved in this stuff in the first place."

'Degrading' images

The world's largest ever international police operation to break the Wonderland Club, resulted in 107 arrests in 12 countries and the seizure of around 750,000 images of around 1,200 children.

The eight arrested
Ahmed Ali, 30, a taxi driver from Tulse Hill, south London
Ian Baldock, 31, a computer consultant from St Leonards, East Sussex
Andrew Barlow, 25, unemployed, of Bletchley in Milton Keynes
Gavin Seagers, 29, a computer consultant from Dartford, Kent
Antoni Skinner, 36, a computer consultant from Cheltenham
Frederick Stephens, 46, a taxi driver from Hayes, Middlesex
David Hines, 30, unemployed, from Bognor Regis in West Sussex
Steven Ellis, 40, unemployed, from Norwich
The haul included what police described as "appalling" and "degrading" images of children aged between three months and 18 years.

Detective Chief Inspector Alex Wood, of the National Crime Squad, said information about the victims in the images had been sent to Interpol and police forces around the world.

"One of the points of the operation has been to try to protect the children," he said.

"We have pictures of children in hotel rooms and private environments - there is no way of telling where they came from."

The seven members arrested in Britain have pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring with others to distribute indecent images of children.

They will be sentenced at Kingston Crown Court next month and face a maximum three years in prison.

An eighth man arrested in Britain - Steven Ellis, 40, a computer salesman from Norwich - was also charged but committed suicide in January 1999.

The man police described as the club's chairman, Gary Salt, was jailed in Manchester for 12 years for rape in July 1998.

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