13 suspected paedophiles arrested in crackdown

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POLICE have arrested 13 suspected paedophiles in Scotland as part of a major sex crime crackdown which has seen 660 arrests across the UK.

The six-month operation organised by the National Crime Agency (NCA) targeted internet users who access child abuse images but has already led to charges for serious sexual assault.

Those arrested included doctors, teachers, scout leaders, care workers and former police officers.

The massive investigation, involving 45 police forces, led to more than 400 children being “safeguarded”, the NCA said.

It stressed that none of those arrested is a serving or former MP or member of the Government.

NCA deputy director general Phil Gormley said the crackdown, the biggest ever operation of its kind, involved alleged paedophiles who used the so-called “dark web” as well as traditional internet access.

The “dark web” is internet content that is not listed by normal search engines. Users will often use payment methods such as virtual currencies to help avoid detection.

The 431 children who were safeguarded were in the “care, custody or control” of the suspects, and included 127 who were deemed to be at immediate risk of harm.

Mr Gormley said he was “profoundly disappointed” that so many suspects had been arrested over this type of crime, and said a harder look needs to be taken at the high numbers of people accessing child abuse images.

He said: “The alternative is not to look under the stone, and we cannot afford not to look under this stone.”

It came as Police Scotland said it had arrested more than 339 suspected paedophiles since April 2013.

Detective Superintendent Steven Wilson, Specialist Crime Division Cybercrime unit, said: “The internet has created an environment where criminals seek new ways to exploit the most vulnerable. Sadly children and young people can be amongst those who become their victims.

“Police Scotland has worked tirelessly to proactively utilise all available new technology to combat the threats posed by online offenders, bring them to justice and protect those who are at risk of falling victim to abuse and exploitation. Those who believe that the internet offers anonymity to exploit children should understand that there is no hiding place, every contact leaves a trace which we will investigate to bring offenders before the courts.”