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Tuesday, 12 November, 2002, 03:56 GMT
Police 'failing to arrest paedophiles'
Searching on a PC
Paedophiles were found in more than 60 countries
Almost 7,000 suspected paedophiles are still at large in the United Kingdom, despite a warning from US authorities six months ago.

British police say that while hundreds have been arrested as part of Operation Ore, investigations have been hampered by a lack of funding.

But the government has dismissed this claim, saying extra money has been made available and the results are now being seen.

The names of British suspects were passed on by US investigators who used credit card details to identify 250,000 suspected internet paedophiles in more than 60 countries.

Resource call

Police in the UK say they have been targeting those who pose the greatest risk to children.


Hundreds of arrests have already been made and the police say that we can expect further arrests to follow

Hilary Benn
But they say they are being overwhelmed by the scale of the problem, and are very concerned as one in five of those arrested is thought to be involved in real abuse.

Officers have also been surprised that most of those arrested are professional people with no previous police record.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Carole Howlett of the Association of Chief Police Officers said: "I have no doubt that in the future there are going to be operations of a similar scale and nature to this [Operation Ore].

"We need to be properly resourced in order to deal with that.

"And I think a key issue for me therefore is that child protection becomes a ministerial priority nationally."

'Further arrests'

Detective Superintendent Jon Hesketh of West Midlands Police said many of those identified as suspects were working as teachers, police officers and in other jobs giving them access to children.

He said he had been "incredibly surprised by the number of people and by the occupations of those people and the positions they held".

Home Office minister Hilary Benn said child protection and the threat of internet paedophiles was "undoubtedly a priority for the government".


We can wait for the fight to come to us, or we can take the fight to them

Sergeant Byron Fassett
He said 25m had gone towards setting up the National Hi-tech Crime Unit and overall police budgets had increased.

"Hundreds of arrests have already been made and the police say that we can expect further arrests to follow," he added.

"It shows that the police are beginning to tackle this problem."

Chat rooms

Suspects were traced through the Landslide website - a gateway to an international collection of child pornography sites.

Thomas Reedy, who ran the website and made millions from it, is now serving a sentence of 1,335 years.

The detectives involved in the ongoing US investigation went online to visit websites and chat rooms to find paedophiles and the evidence they needed to prosecute them.

The officers said they sympathised with their British colleagues' lack of resources.

But they questioned what could be more important than protecting children from horrific sexual abuse.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Westhead
"The most senior officers responsible have said a lack of resources is hampering the inquiry"
Home Office Minister Hilary Benn
"The police are beginning to tackle this problem"
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