Justin Davenport — Evening Standard July 16, 2014
A total of 660 suspected paedophiles have been arrested across Britain in the biggest police operation of its kind, it was revealed today.
Detectives seized suspects including doctors, teachers, care workers, scout leaders and ex-police officers in a six-month crackdown.
Police say they have protected or “safeguarded” a total of 431 children, many of whom were at immediate risk from suspects. Some of these suspects had unsupervised access to children in the course of their work.
The operation, codenamed Notarise, was co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency and in- volved searches of 833 homes and offices across the UK. Police said they seized nearly 10,000 phones and computers.
NCA deputy director Phil Gormley said: “We believe this is the biggest operation of its type in the history of UK law enforcement. Our aim was to protect children who were victims of, or might be at risk of, sexual exploitation.
“A child is victimised not only when abused and an image is taken. A child is re-victimised every time that image is viewed by someone.”
He added: “There are very significant volumes of people viewing this material in this country and abroad. We’re going to need to understand as a society how we are going to confront this issue. We are not going arrest our way out of this. The numbers are huge.”
Mr Gormley said he had been “profoundly disappointed” by the scale of the offending. He added: “I think we are all pretty appalled by what this says about human nature.
“The alternative is not to look under the stone but we cannot choose to do this. We have to decide how we intervene in this offending cycle.”
Police gave priority to suspects who had access to children — but fear thousands more could be viewing indecent images of children online. In one case a doctor was arrested and charged after more than a million indecent images were found on his computer.
Another suspect admitted viewing indecent images of children for 30 years since he was aged 16 and often travelled to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand for sexual purposes. Others arrested included a foster carer.
The NCA provided intelligence packages to all UK police forces. Police refused to give details of how they targeted the individuals.
The operation focused on people accessing indecent images of children online but charges range from accessing images to serious sexual assault.
Mr Gormley said the clampdown involved alleged paedophiles who used the so-called “dark web” as well as traditional internet access. The “dark web” is content that is not listed by normal search engines. Users will often use payment methods such as virtual currencies to help avoid detection.
Claire Lilley, of the NSPCC, said: “This operation must be rightly applauded but we should view it as yet another warning sign that far more needs to be done if we are to stem the sordid trade in these images, often used by those who go on to abuse children.