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Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 03:10 GMT
Police examine paedophile evidence
Police raid address in London
Police raid an address in London
Police are sifting through evidence collected in the UK as part of an international crackdown on internet child porn.

Police seized computers and software, arrested nine people, and confiscated equipment from another suspect during dawn raids across the UK.

Following the raids, paedophiles were warned the would be no hiding place for those who use the internet to distribute pornography.

The National Crime Squad says the scale of the operation is unprecedented and represents the culmination of a worldwide clampdown on child pornography.

Results of UK raids
44-year-old man arrested in Hull
Computer and software seized in Greater Manchester
One person arrested and computer equipment seized in Teignbridge, Devon
Computer seized in Merseyside
Computer equipment seized in Paisley
The raids involved law enforcement on four continents. More than 130 suspects were targeted in 19 countries including Australia, Canada, France, America, South Korea and Japan.

NCS monitored regular users of more than 30 internet news groups specialising in explicit images of child pornography.

It discovered 60,000 fresh images of youngsters that had been downloaded and traded between paedophiles.

NCS said those arrested were suspected of using internet newsgroups to request, exchange and supply paedophile images.

"In one instance a newsgroup was used to seek help with the 'grooming' of a young child for abuse," said a NCS spokesman.

Intelligence gathered during the 10-month operation showed there were "dozens" of newsgroups carrying illegal paedophile images, he said.

Interpol distributed information to countries with the suspects and following two meetings in Lyon and London, the raids were launched.

'Right to know'

Detective Superintendent Peter Spindler, heading the operation for NCS, said: "If you have an interest in this type of material, then society has a right to know who you are, what's your DNA and have we got you on the Sex Offenders' Register.

In one instance a newsgroup was used to seek help with the 'grooming' of a young child for abuse

NCS spokesman
"That is what is going to happen to the people that have been arrested."

DS Spindler said it was "particularly disturbing" that the paedophile images on the news groups were available for even children to access.

Those accessing the newsgroups did so regularly and "with purpose", he said.

"We also learnt, not surprisingly, that those abusing the internet have learnt from recent police successes how best to protect their true identities."

Police officer
A police officer removes material from a London house
Detective Sergeant Doug Bewley, from Scotland Yard's paedophile unit, said: "Any piece of child pornography is an example of child abuse.

"There is no anonymity on the internet for anybody who deals with this disgusting material.

"It is a serious offence and any persons being found involved in it will be arrested and will be dealt with," DS Bewley told the BBC.

The BBC's crime correspondent Stephen Cape said the operation was complicated by the fact that lots of suspects use false addresses that are virtually impossible to trace.

"Behind these people there could well be organised gangs," he said.

Nine people have been arrested in the UK so far - one in Scotland and eight in England.

The files of more than 400 suspects could not be traced because they left no electronic trail.

Det Supt Peter Spindler
Det Supt Peter Spindler: Paedophiles will go on Sex Offenders' Register

Internet service provider Demon helped the police monitor paedophile activity.

John Carr, internet consultant for the children's charity NCH, called for a crackdown on internet service providers that allow paedophiles to get hold of such material.

"It is absolutely disgraceful that some UK internet service providers are still offering easy access to this material," he said.

'Sophisticated software'

"We believe that immediate action should be taken to stop this.

"If this situation continues then the companies involved should face criminal investigation."

The NCS has now developed "sophisticated facial mapping software" of children being used in the pornography which they hope will enable them to be quickly identified.

The nine UK forces involved in the operation were named as Devon and Cornwall, Greater Manchester, Humberside, Kent, Merseyside, Metropolitan, Strathclyde, Thames Valley and Wiltshire.

The 19 countries where warrants were executed on Wednesday were: Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, the UK and the United States.

The BBC's Stephen Cape
"Child abuse on the internet is now a global problem"
Peter Spindler of the National Crime Squad
"This is the culmination of ten months work"
Bill Allen, chief executive, telecoms provider Thus
"We wish to operate our business within the law"
See also:

18 Apr 01 | Scotland
Scots to join cybercrime fight
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