Twenty one men have been arrested in West Yorkshire in a major sex crime crackdown that has seen 660 suspected paedophiles arrested across Britain, the National Crime Agency said yesterday.

The six-month operation targeted internet users who access child abuse images but has already led to charges for serious sexual assault.

The massive investigation, involving 45 police forces, led to hundreds of children being “safeguarded”, the NCA said. 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.

The NCA said suspects include doctors, teachers, Scout leaders and care workers who had no previous contact with the police. Some suspects were former police officers. In total, only 39 registered sex offenders are among those arrested. It stressed that none of those arrested is a serving or former MP or member of the Government.

The NCA said it built up “intelligence packages” on suspects and sent them to police forces across Britain. Officers have searched 833 properties and examined 9,172 computers, phones and hard drives.

In West Yorkshire, 21 arrests have been made for the possession of indecent images of children. All of the men have been bailed pending continuing enquiries as part of the operation which has been ongoing in West Yorkshire since April.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Williams of West Yorkshire Police, said: “West Yorkshire Police have carried out arrests within the West Yorkshire area as part of this national operation and our enquiries at a local level very much remain ongoing. This has been a significant national operation in which all forces involved have collaborated closely and used a wide variety of investigative techniques. Tackling sexual offences and in particular sex offending involving children is an area which West Yorkshie Police has prioritised in recent years and allocated extra resources to. We are committed to investigating all allegations of offences of this type.”

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. 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.

News source: Dewsbury Reporter

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