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16 July 2014, 15:23
A six month police investigation across the country has led to the arrest of 33 suspected paedophiles in Hampshire and 8 in Dorset.
The offences range from accessing indecent images of children to serious sexual assault.
The covert enforcement operation was co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency and involved 45 police forces across the country as part of a six-month national operation targeting online child abuse.
Nationally, it led to the arrests of 660 suspected paedophiles and the protection or safeguarding of more than 400 children.
Hampshire Police received 37 packages relating to suspected online child sex offences. We arrested 33 men on suspicion of possessing and distributing indecent images of children.
Seventeen children have been safeguarded by Hampshire Constabulary.
Detective Chief Inspector Becky Riggs is the force lead on child abuse investigations. She said:
"Today's announcement of the results of the operation marks the culmination of six months of covert work by our dedicated officers.
"The 37 packages we received are just some of the hundreds of referrals about online child abuse that our Paedophile and Online Investigation team deals with every year.
"Online child sexual abuse is one of the areas we investigate as part of our work tackling child abuse and child sexual exploitation in general. "Online offences can involve actual physical abuse and grooming as well as the making, possession and distribution of indecent images of children.
"All are criminal offences and a form of child abuse. They are not victimless crimes. Each time an image is shared, it further victimises that child.
"The fact it's happening online makes this an international problem but it still can have an impact locally. That why it's important we work together with our national and international law enforcement partners through the National Crime Agency to share information, identify children at risk and bring offenders to justice.
"Through our Personal Internet and Cyber Safety campaign meanwhile, we're working to help children stay safe online and prevent abuse happening in the first place."
From the eight men which have been arrested by detectives in Dorset following the receipt of information from the NCA. Three have been charged and five are currently on police bail pending further enquiries.
Detective Inspector Pete Little, of the Public Protection Unit, said:
“The aim of this operation was to protect children who are victims of, or might be at risk of sexual exploitation.
“Children are victimised not only when they are abused and an image is first taken. They are victimised repeatedly every time that image is viewed.
“We know that some of the people who start by accessing indecent images online go on to abuse children directly.”
The NCA developed and disseminated intelligence packages about suspected offenders and passed those to forces across the UK.
Detective Inspector Pete Little continued:
“This has not only been about catching people who have already offended – it is also about influencing potential abusers before they cross that horrific line.
“Offenders need to know that the internet is not a safe anonymous space for accessing indecent images. They leave a digital footprint and we will find it.”
If you're worried about your own sexual thoughts or behaviour towards children, you can get help from the Stop It Now helpline on 0808 1000 900.
If you've been involved in this type of offence, whether as a victim or an offender, you can seek help.
If you've been the victim of abuse, speak to police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.
If you have concerns or suspicions about someone you believe is abusing children or sharing indecent images, you can call police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.