25/09/2015

25 Arrests Made In NCA Child Abuse Investigation

Thirty two children in Northern Ireland have been "safeguarded and protected" in a joint operation between the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

The operation, which is ongoing and targets people accessing indecent images of children online, had been kept covert to protect children, identify offenders and secure evidence.

To date, 25 people have been arrested during the five month operation with charges include making, possessing and distributing indecent images of children.

The NCA and the PSNI are not revealing the tactics used to track down suspects so that they can use the same methodology in the future.

NCA's CEOP Command Zoe Hilton: "The aim of this operation is to protect children who are victims of, or might be at risk of, sexual exploitation. Online images are not a 'lesser' form of abuse. Every child in those images has been sexually abused, and every time someone looks at an image that child is victimised again. Knowing those images are out there has a devastating impact on victims.

"Some of the people who start by accessing indecent images online go on to sexually assault children directly, but not all do. That is why, as well as bringing offenders to justice, we want to prevent potential abuse taking place by stopping people from crossing that line.

"Be in no doubt that we can police the internet. It is not a safe haven for accessing indecent images of children, and if you do it you should expect to come to our attention."

Detective Chief Superintendent George Clarke, Head of the PSNI's Public Protection Branch, said: "There is this perception that this sort of child abuse goes on elsewhere, not in Northern Ireland, but we do have very dangerous offenders in Northern Ireland and this joint operation with NCA further enhances our ongoing efforts to protect children and bring offenders to justice.

"This is a despicable crime against children. The PSNI and our colleagues in NCA have been working hard together, using a range of investigative techniques to ensure all opportunities are maximised to protect children from harm online and offline and bring offenders to justice and we will continue to do so.

"The message is clear for those who continue to exploit children online. You leave a digital footprint when you are downloading, viewing, making indecent images of
children and we have the capacity, capability and determination to catch
you and bring you to justice."

(MH/LM)

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