Over the last two days, more than 40 UK police forces have co-operated to arrest around 78 suspected Internet paedophiles, in an operation led by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).
CEOP has also published a report, linking an increase in the number of indecent images of children online to a growth in real-world child abuse.
This follows the revelation by Channel 4 News on Tuesday that a popular online game for young teenagers, Habbo Hotel, is full of interactions of an explicit sexual nature.
Operation Tharsley was a joint operation between 42 police forces and officers from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), targeting people thought to be in possession of child abuse images, and resulting in 76 arrests.
“Operation Tharsley highlights the excellent work carried out by UK police forces on a daily basis and I’ve seen first-hand the passion and dedication of officers investigating these cases,” he added.
Following the operation, CEOP has published a report ‘A Picture of Abuse’ that describes the risk posed by people who view indecent images of children online, saying it could lead to physical sex attacks.
According to the BBC, referrals to CEOP increased by 181 percent between April last year and March this year. The watchdog claims that serious child abuse is rife across England.
“Given the increase in child abuse images online, the increase in reports we receive into CEOP and consequently the volume of intelligence reports police forces are dealing with, this report is timely. Understanding the risk that certain individuals pose to children is critical to those judgements made by dedicated and hard working officers working day in, day out in child protection,” said Baker.
The report calls for more resources to be allocated to dedicated victim identification teams and high-tech crime units, in order to support police officers working in this area.
Jon Brown, head of the NSPCC’s sexual abuse programme, told The Independent: “This supports research the NSPCC carried out last year which revealed one in three of those convicted of possessing child abuse images has also committed other serious sexual offences against children.”
“It’s a very worrying situation and more research is needed on the most effective punishment and treatment of offenders caught viewing child abuse pictures,” he concluded.
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