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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Internet 'bodyguards' aid police swoop
Children using the internet
SurfControl has software to monitor chat rooms
Software specifically developed to combat paedophiles on the internet was used by police who staged dawn raids on suspects on Wednesday.

The biggest ever operation against internet paedophiles in the UK involved 34 police forces and targeted 75 addresses.

In the six-month investigation prior to the swoop, police used software developed by SurfControl.

The company is one of a small number of filtering firms dealing with web and email usage, developing ever new software to tackle illegal use of the internet.


With specialist software now at the disposal of the police, it is impossible for those who use the internet illegally to remain anonymous

Steve Purdham

Police forces in Greater Manchester and Hertfordshire used software developed by SurfControl to track down those responsible for distributing indecent images of children.

The six-month investigation - codenamed Operation Magenta - was led by the Abusive Images Unit of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and the Child Protection and Investigation Unit of the Hertfordshire Constabulary.

Successful operations

Steve Purdham, chief executive for SurfControl, said the technological net is closing on paedophiles.

He told a news conference in Stevenage on Wednesday: "With specialist software now at the disposal of the police, it is impossible for those who use the internet illegally to remain anonymous."

Among the company's software is a specialist tool offering easier tracking and tracing of illegal and threatening activity in chat rooms.

The company first began working with the GMP's Obscene Publications Unit in 2000, providing internet filtering expertise and software.

It was involved in Operation Appal in 2001, where technology designed by the company assisted in a successful anti-paedophile operation.

Protection

Software used in Operation Magenta helped to target people in the UK who possess and distribute indecent images of children via the internet.

Mr Purdham said: "By getting together all these different agencies it can provide much more protection to the children and a lack of hiding places for the paedophiles that are there."

He said the company would shortly be making the new equipment available free of charge to police forces across the UK wanting to co-operate to crack down on paedophiles on the internet.

Inspector Keith Tilley, head of Hertfordshire Constabulary's Child Protection and Investigation Unit, said: "This activity is unlawful and is committed by people who often go on to commit further offences of abuse against vulnerable children."

Time saved

Use of SurfControl's software shortened the length of time hunting out suspected paedophiles considerably.

Russell Chadwick, of SurfControl said: "We have been told that instead of officers taking 60 minutes to find 16 targets, it now takes 16 minutes to find 60 targets.

"That means that police officers are freed up to do what they are trained to do, rather than computer work."

Forces working together have helped achieve the successful results, said Detective Inspector Terry Jones from GMP's Abusive Images Unit.

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