Concerns have been raised by a senior MP over the length of time it took to apprehend a man thought to be the first in Scotland convicted of live streaming sexual abuse of children.
Matthew Bell, 51, pleaded guilty earlier this month at the High Court in Glasgow to five offences, with the judge describing his crimes as being “of the utmost depravity”.
The former sales advisor, from Irvine, was found to have paid as little as 93p to watch on a webcam from his Ayrshire home as children in the Philippines were forced to carry out sex acts.
But it was revealed yesterday that the National Crime Agency (NCA) was first warned about the activities of Bell in September 2016 - but he was not arrested until March 2018.
The NCA claimed it did not have enough information to make an arrest in 2016. It finally acted after BBC News presented further material and officers were able to “develop intelligence” about the case and “act quickly”.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, told the broadcaster the case was “incredibly disturbing”.
“To have delays in a case like this, which is so serious with such a vile crime against children, is really worrying,” she said.
Bell was first identified by Peter Dupont, a Belgian investigative journalist, who worked with authorities in the Philippines to expose live-streaming gangs who were targeting vulnerable children.
Mr Dupont was able to screengrab an image of Bell sitting in his flat while directing the sickening abuse.
He first took his evidence to the police in the Philippines in 2015 which led to five adults being arrested and the rescue of 12 children.
The following year Dupont gave an interview to a London newspaper about his investigation, which led to a partially disguised picture of Bell being published.
An NCA spokesman said: “The protection of children and prosecution of child sex offenders is a top priority for the NCA and we do everything we can to fulfil this aim.
“In September 2016 we received information from Mr Dupont which, despite researching and developing, provided insufficient evidence for action to be taken against Bell and the case remained open.
“We thank the BBC for their visit in February 2018, after which we continued to develop intelligence enabling us to act swiftly in partnership with Police Scotland to arrest and convict Bell.”