A six-month investigation has resulted in the arrest of 660 suspected pedophiles in the UK as Britain’s National Crime Agency targets individuals who looked online at indecent pictures of children.
The operation, which was the first of its kind for Britain, involved 45 police forces across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, an NCA news release said.
Those arrested included doctors, teachers, scout leaders, care workers, and former police officers. Some had unsupervised access to children.
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Thirty-nine of the individuals were registered sex offenders.
“A child is victimized not only when they are abused and an image is taken. They are re-victimized every time that image is viewed by someone. Some of the people who start by accessing indecent images online go on to abuse children directly,” said NCA Deputy Director General Phil Gormley in the release. “So the operation is not only about catching people who have already offended — it is about influencing potential offenders before they cross that line. We want those offenders to know that the Internet is not a safe anonymous space for accessing indecent images, that they leave a digital footprint, and that law enforcement will find it.”
The NCA said it would not discuss how the operation was conducted so the organization could use the same tactics in the future.
The announcement of the unprecedented operation came on the heels of months of investigations into celebrity sexual abuse cases, many of which have been widely covered by the media. That includes the late Jimmy Savile, a BBC entertainer, who may have abused as many as 1,000 victims.
A Scotland Yard investigation called Operation Yewtree has targeted many high-profile individuals, including entertainers and government officials, for child sexual abuse. Although most support the operation, this week actor Stephen Fry openly criticized the operation by saying that as many as half of those arrested who had their reputations destroyed were exonerated or never charged, the Daily Mail reported
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