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 Monday, 27 January, 2003, 09:24 GMT
Operation Ore puts children 'at risk'
Child porn
Operation Ore provided leads on 250,000 suspects
Children are at risk because the police cannot cope with a growing number of suspected internet paedophiles, according to one of the most senior officers dealing with child pornography.

Detective Chief Superintendent Derrick Kelleher has admitted he is taking officers away from child protection units to arrest suspects identified by Operation Ore, the UK's largest ever police hunt against internet paedophiles.

"These teams are already stretched to the limit," the commander of the Metropolitan Police Child Protection Group told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Our priority must be protecting children who are at risk here and now."

Pete Townshend
Townshend says he was researching a book

Operation Ore has given police direct leads on 250,000 suspected internet paedophiles worldwide, including The Who's Pete Townshend, who insists he was merely researching the subject.

But Detective Chief Superintendent Kelleher told Today it had taken six months to identify 10% of them in London alone.

"We have not got a list of names."

"We have only got a list of credit card numbers.

We have not got the level of resources to attach to it

Detective Chief Superintendent Derrick Kelleher

"We are having to work methodically through this list through the financial institutions.

"It is time-consuming.

"We have not got the level of resources to attach to it.

"And it is going to take us a long time."

Computer user
Child porn can be accessed in seconds

Home Office minister Hilary Benn said the government had implemented measures to protect children from this "horrific form of abuse".

The centrally-funded National Criminal Intelligence Service had taken some of the strain by initially sifting through the names to prioritise who they considered were the worst offenders.

And part of the role of the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, set up at a cost of 25m, was to support police forces by giving technical expertise.

Mr Benn added: "Police forces have had a big increase in funding - 6% this year, 10% last year."

The police need to get a move on and the government needs to finance it as a matter of urgency

Carole Howlett, spokeswoman on internet child pornography for ACPO

Deputy assistant commissioner Carole Howlett, spokeswoman on internet child pornography for the Association of Chief Police Officers, last year asked for more police resources to help.

Ms Shipley said 500,000 had been given, but the police needed about 2m to tackle the huge scale of the problem.

"The police need to get a move on and the government needs to finance it as a matter of urgency," she said.

Donald Findlater was manager of the Wolvercote Clinic in Surrey - the only residential treatment centre in England for paedophiles, until its closure last year.

I doubt the system will be able to deal competently, and in a way that protects children, as these people go through the system

Former manager of the Wolvercote Clinic, Donald Findlater

He told the programme: "Operation Ore has presented enormous challenges which are currently being faced by the police in terms of properly investigating and accumulating evidence.

"The next challenge will be faced by the courts and probation service and maybe the prisons.

"We are going to see this large bulge of this group of individuals going through the system.

"And frankly I doubt the system will be able to deal competently, and in a way that protects children, as these people go through the system."


Growing menace

Tackling the threat
See also:

14 Jan 03 | UK
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