DETECTIVES have arrested suspects in Northern Ireland as part of a UK-wide probe against suspected paedophiles trawling the internet for sickening child abuse images.
As part of the UK-wide investigation led by the National Crime Agency, 660 suspects were detained including doctors, teachers and social workers.
In a statement the PSNI has given details of its involvement in the probe into ‘dark web’ images.
Drew Harris, Assistant Chief Constable in charge of the PSNI’s Crime Operations Department, said: “We have carried out 15 searches and made 14 arrests as part of a UK-wide operation coordinated by the National Crime Agency carried out against suspected paedophiles.
“The aim of this operation is to protect children who are vicTims of, or might be at risk of, sexual exploitation.
“The targets were people accessing indecent images of children online and the majority of these people were not yet known to police – they are now, and they will stay in our sights.Cr
“Two children were identified in Northern Ireland to be at potential risk and have been protected through social services.
“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.
“We have identified that many offenders who start by accessing indecent images online go on to abuse children directly so the operation is not only about detecting people who have already offended – it is about reducing the risk of serious harm to children.
“Offenders possessing indecent images of children online should know that the internet is not a safe hiding place.
“We will continue to use a range of investigative techniques targeting all forms of abuse to protect children and vulnerable people and bring offenders to justice.
“Officers working in the PSNI and Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) routinely work side by side with professionals from the wider child protection community and industry to identify the main threats to children and coordinate activity against these threats to bring offenders to account.
“They routinely police the internet to protect children from harm online and offline and and pursue those who sexually exploit and abuse children, prevent people becoming involved in child sexual exploitation, protect children from becoming victims of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, and prepare interventions to reduce the impact of child sexual exploitation and abuse through safeguarding and child protection work.
“This operation remains ongoing therefore it would be inappropriate to go into further detail at this time, added ACC Harris.