Police arrest cyber porn suspects

POLICE raided homes across Scotland and the rest of the UK yesterday, making dozens of arrests and seizing computers in an operation targeting suspected users of child pornography.

The Association of Chief Police Officers later said 36 people suspected of accessing pay-per-view websites based in the United States were arrested in the operation, codenamed Ore. Their ages ranged from 24 to 65.

The sites were selling explicit images of sexual abuse of children as young as five.

A total of 43 searches were carried out and more than 30 computers, with large quantities of discs and videos, were seized.

In Scotland, Grampian Police raided a house in the Bridge of Don area of Aberdeen, arresting a man in his 30s and confiscating computer equipment. The man was questioned and later released without charge pending further inquiries.

Det Sgt Malcolm Stewart, who led the raid, said he was pleased with its outcome and that a report would be submitted to the procurator fiscal.

And in Glasgow, Strathclyde Police officers removed computer equipment from a house in an unspecified area. No-one was arrested, a police spokeswoman said.

Thirty police forces across the country were involved in an operation co-ordinated by the National Crime Squad (NCIS), Britain’s equivalent of the FBI, and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), working on tip-offs from police in the US. Around 50 houses and flats were searched.

The web sites, which are not being named at this stage for operational reasons, acted as a shop window to other sites carrying similar images. Those buying images had to give details of their credit cards, including billing addresses, and were sent an e-mail from the website with a user login and unique password.

Following the US tip-off, NCIS obtained details of customers who had subscribed to the websites between May 1999 and the summer of 2001 and its Serious Sex Offenders Unit identified a "significant number" of suspects.

The arrests south of the Border included three men - aged 62, 54 and 35 - in Merseyside, and in London the Metropolitan Police Paedophile Unit seized computer equipment from two homes, in Battersea and Camden.

Detective Superintendent Peter Spindler of the NCIS said: "This is an excellent example of all the UK policing agencies coming together in a co-ordinated way to tackle a relatively new and growing problem.

"This is the first time we have targeted people who use the internet to buy images of children being sexually abused.

"We will continue these operations to protect children and show paedophiles that law enforcement agencies will find them regardless of which area of the internet they use."

Vincent Harvey, director of UK tactical services at NCIS, said: "We must remember that every image of a child being sexually abused is an image of a crime scene and each photograph is that of a victim.

"Using the sophisticated technology that is now available to us along with traditional detective and analytical work we can now identify these people, who presumably thought that their activities could remain undetected.

"With continued close co-operation with other law enforcement agencies, we can make sure that there is no place for paedophiles operating on-line to hide their criminal activities and today’s result is testimony to that."

Carole Howlett, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and ACPO spokeswoman on internet child abuse, said: "There is also evidence that a significant proportion of people involved in child abuse on-line are themselves actual abusers.

"We now need to combat these crimes by building on the expertise which exists in forces and in national agencies."

Paedophile priest jailed for pictures

A SENIOR Catholic priest who was caught with 18,000 photographs and computer images of children involved in sexually depraved acts was yesterday jailed for nine months.

Father Michael O’Kelly, the former Dean of Reading, had admitted a charge of making indecent pseudo-photographs of a child.

O’Kelly, 47, who has been receiving treatment, was also sentenced to a six-year supervision order, placed on the sex offenders’ register, and banned from working with children at Reading Crown Court.

The court was told that images on videos, magazines and stored on computer discs also involved bestiality and were "disturbing, degrading and disgusting".