22 arrests in Devon and Cornwall as 660 suspected paedophiles targeted in national crackdown

Falmouth Packet: 660 suspected paedophiles arrested in national crackdown 660 suspected paedophiles arrested in national crackdown

A major sex crime crackdown has led to the arrest of 660 suspected paedophiles across Britain, including 22 arrests on Devon and Cornwall after children "at risk" were identified.

The six-month operation involving the National Crime Agency (NCA), targeted internet users who access child abuse images, but has already led to charges for serious sexual assault.

Among the several hundred people arrested across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are workers who had access to children through their jobs and had no previous contact with police.

The massive investigation, involving 45 police forces, led to hundreds of children being "safeguarded", the NCA said.

It stressed that none of those arrested is a serving or former MP or member of the Government.

The NCA said suspects include doctors, teachers, Scout leaders, care workers and former police officers. In total, only 39 registered sex offenders are among those arrested.

Officers have searched 833 properties and examined 9,172 computers, phones and hard drives.

The NCA said it built up "intelligence packages" on suspects and sent them to police forces across Britain.

Devon & Cornwall Police, working in partnership with the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Association of Chief Police Officers, delivered an "unprecedented operation to safeguard children across the peninsula" by targeting paedophiles that access indecent images of children online.

The focus of the investigation was to prevent child abuse before it happens and safeguard children who are victims or might be at risk of sexual exploitation.  A child is victimised not only when they are abused and an image is taken but they are re-victimised every time that image is viewed by someone.

During this operation officers executed 32 warrants across the peninsula, which resulted in 22 arrests. All of the suspects are currently on police bail.

Seven warrants were also completed targeting people who had viewed indecent images of children online, which were not part of the NCA operation, leading to seven further arrests.

The overall policing operation was led by the Public Protection Unit supported by officers from our Force Support Group and local investigation teams. This direct action identified children who were at risk, who are now safe and protected due to the support they were provided by the police and Children’s Services.

Detective Chief Inspector Brett Mitchell, Public Protection Unit, said: “We know some of the people who access indecent images of children online go on to abuse children directly and this operation has been focussed on preventing this from happening.

“Targeting offenders who access indecent images of children online influences potential abusers, preventing children becoming victims of sexual abuse.

“The internet is not a safe space for paedophiles to access and view indecent images of children. Their activity leaves a digital footprint, which we will find.

“We have a team of specially trained detectives within our Public Protection Unit who are dedicated to finding and prosecuting paedophiles and are making arrests every day across the Force.

“Devon and Cornwall Police will continue to target paedophiles as part of our daily operational activity as we are committed to protecting children and finding people who believe it is acceptable to commit this crime.”

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