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Man in Swindon arrested during nationwide police operation
A MAN in Swindon and another in Great Bedwyn have been arrested as part of a nationwide police operation targeting suspected internet paedophiles.
More than 40 police forces have been involved in raids as part of the operation.
Several people have been arrested in the raids which have taken place over the last 48 hours in the operation led by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop).
In Wiltshire, officers raided two addresses in Swindon and Great Bedwyn, near Marlborough.
A 46-year-old man was arrested in Swindon while a 28-year-old man was held in Great Bedwyn.
Both were questioned by police on suspicion of making, possessing and distributing indecent images of children, Wiltshire Police said.
A spokeswoman for Ceop said there have been two days of "operational activity" involving more than 40 forces across the UK.
"There have been a number of warrants that have been executed and a number of arrests that have been made," she said.
Ceop is today publishing a report on the risk posed by people who possess indecent images of children and recommendations about how police can protect children.
The specialist police child protection unit warns that anyone caught downloading child abuse images online poses a risk of committing physical sex attacks on children.
The images are becoming more extreme, sadistic and violent, but the severity and number of images held by offenders are not enough alone to assess the risk they pose or the sentence they should receive, the report said.
The warning comes after a watchdog claimed that serious child abuse was rife across England, saying that girls as young as 11 "expect" to have to perform sex acts on rows of boys for up to two hours at a time in parts of London.
Deputy children's commissioner Sue Berelowitz told MPs her in-depth study of the problem suggested there "isn't a town, village or hamlet in which children are not being sexually exploited".
Ceop urged police forces to prioritise the investigation of anyone caught with child abuse images who has easy access to children.
And it called for the authorities to look beyond the quantity and severity of the images, adding that a full risk assessment should be considered before a judge hands down any sentence.
The notion that any case may result in the identification of a victim should be at the forefront of every investigation, Ceop said.
"The landscape of austerity coupled with the increasing volumes of work that child protection teams are faced with in the UK is unprecedented,"
its report said.
Referrals to Ceop increased by 181% between April last year and March alone, figures showed.
The report went on: "This point in time has the potential to be a golden age for child protection, but the evolution of technology is likely to make the internet an increasingly difficult place to investigate.
"The predicted dramatic rise in work volumes will require a fresh look at policing priorities and the resources allocated to this area of policing.
"In a perfect world all IIOC (indecent images of children) possession cases would be subject to a comprehensive, quick time investigation as soon as intelligence comes to the attention of law enforcement.
"However in a time where resource is sparse and priorities continually modified, this has become increasingly unachievable."
But it warned: "There is a clear correlation between IIOC offending and contact sexual offending against children although causation cannot be established.
"Anyone who possesses IIOC poses a risk of committing contact sexual offences against children.
"Cases where it has been identified that an IIOC possession suspect has access to children should be actioned as an immediate priority."
Access to children was a "key factor in the assessment of an offender's risk" and the link between possessing the images and carrying out sexual attacks "highlights the need to consider each possession offender as a potential contact offender to some extent", the Ceop report found.
A study of almost 100 case studies from 34 forces found offenders who both possessed child abuse images and attacked children were "almost exclusively white males", with most aged between 19 and 45.
Those not in work, and possibly therefore those with high levels of internet usage, those working in schools or care work, and those in manual and manufacturing jobs made up most of the sample, the report said.
Jon Brown, head of the NSPCC's sexual abuse programme, said: "This supports research the NSPCC carried out last year which revealed one in three of those convicted of possessing child abuse images has also committed other serious sexual offences against children."
He added: "It's a very worrying situation and more research is needed on the most effective punishment and treatment of offenders caught viewing child abuse pictures.
"Trying to stop the terrible trade in these images is obviously a huge task.
"But it mustn't be seen in isolation. It's part of a much bigger sexual abuse problem.
"And we must never forget that these images are abuse in themselves and often very young children, including babies, are being assaulted and raped so these pictures can be produced."
West Midlands Police said it raided six addresses over the past two days as part of the operation.
Three people were arrested and four children "safeguarded" after 35 officers executed warrants across the force area in Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Solihull, Sandwell and Dudley.
A 47-year-old man was arrested in Wolverhampton, a 37-year-old man was arrested in Dudley and a 38-year-old man was arrested in Sandwell, all on suspicion of downloading indecent images of children.
All three have been released on police bail with strict conditions pending further enquiries, a spokesman said, and computers were seized from all addresses.
The raids related to suspected offences involving images, including the possession and distribution of indecent images of children, a spokesman said.
The force said Operation Tharsley was a joint operation between 42 police forces and officers from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), targeting people thought to be in possession of child abuse images.
Suspects in the West Midlands were identified through local investigations as well as intelligence received directly from Ceop.
Detective Inspector Kay Wallace, from the force's Child Online Safeguarding Team, said: "This type of work is going on every day across the West Midlands as we seek to tackle those who use the internet as a vehicle to offend against children be it grooming for sexual activity or making, possessing or distributing indecent images.
"We are committed to arresting suspects, seizing images and ensuring our children are protected from abuse."
Andy Baker, deputy chief executive of Ceop, added: "It is clear that those who possess indecent images also pose a significant risk to children and understanding and managing that risk is not an easy undertaking.
"However, when we bring together the latest intelligence picture, nationally coordinated police action and operational support from our colleagues in Soca, we are making the UK a more hostile place for those who are seeking to exploit our children.
"If offenders think that collecting child abuse images is something they can get away with, they need to think again.
"These arrests show once again how law enforcement is becoming increasingly coordinated, sophisticated and innovative in targeting those who commit these crimes.
"Operation Tharsley highlights the excellent work carried out by UK police forces on a daily basis and I've seen first-hand the passion and dedication of officers investigating these cases.
"With our transition into the National Crime Agency, we will continue to support forces with child abuse investigations and enhance the UK's response in combating child sexual exploitation."
Gloucestershire Police said the force took part in the raids.
A 68-year-old man, from Newent, near Gloucester, was arrested on suspicion of the making, possession and distribution of indecent images of children.
A force spokesman said the man was released on bail to attend Gloucester police station on September 4.
Police in Northumbria arrested four men in Sunderland as part of the crackdown.