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THE SUNDAY TIMES.  DECEMBER 1, 2002.

FBI  NETS  7,000  MORE  BRITISH 
USERS OF CHILD PORN WEBSITES.

By David Leppard and Mark Ludlow.

THE FBI is to pass the names of 7,000 suspected paedophiles to British police after smashing a second Internet child pornography ring.

The list will bring the number of Britons under investigation for downloading child pornography to 14,000 after the Americans cracked a similar internet ring earlier this year.

In the latest operation, which is still going on, investigators have the names and addresses of Britons who paid a monthly fee of £25.50 to subscribe* to a website containing graphic photographs of children as young as four being abused by adults.

Lieutenant Bill Walsh, head of the Dallas police internet child crimes task force, which is running the operation with the FBI, said they had identified 25,000 suspects in America, as well as the Britons.

He asked The Sunday Times not to publish further details of the police operation and the name of the company running the website because it was still operating in Russia. However, he added:  "I think this investigation will be more successful than the first."

In the first the names of 7,200 British suspects were passed to British police earlier this year after they were caught in a "sting" by federal investigators. They arrested the website's owners, took over the site and allowed thousands of customers to continue their subscriptions.

So far 500 of the 7,200 Britons caught up in that operation   codenamed Ore   have been arrested. Many are middle-class professionals, including a senior Customs director, civil servants, City businessmen, teachers, university lecturers, magistrates, social workers, police officers and lawyers. Several priests have also been arrested.

Mike Jones, of Northumbria police, said his force had arrested 60 suspects aged between 23 and 71. They included a doctor, teachers and university staff, foster care and youth workers. "If there weren't these people prepared to pay for this imagery there would be hundreds of children around the world not being abused," he said.

A senior Scotland Yard detective said it was planning to arrest more than 1,000 suspects identified in the first inquiry. But he warned police resources were stretched to the limit, with forensic laboratories facing a long queue of complex cases involving the inspection of computer hard drives.

The arrival of a further large batch of suspects would place an even greater burden on officers.

He added: "Never mind the stranger in the dirty mac in the park, itís the stranger in the house we need to worry about.  He's on the Internet, pretending to be a 13 year-old."

Carol Howlett, deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police, said she believed Operation Ore would be the first of many such inquiries. Many more suspects would be targeted, but she warned that child abuse on the internet had to be a higher priority for the government. "It needs to come up the agenda," she said. "It's important that child protection becomes a ministerial priority."

However, the Home Office maintained there were record numbers of police, backed with an extra investment of £1.8 billion over four years. "On top of that we have targeted £500,000 in specific funds towards tackling internet porn. The police should get on and do the job and stop using this vile trade in human misery as a blatant bid for yet more money," said a source.

Details of the latest child porn ring were revealed to the British police at a recent meeting of Interpol. Ruben Rodriguez, of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said: "It's an enormous amount of names, much bigger than the previous one. It was presented to Interpol last month that it was going to be a very, very big case. There was a collective gasp from law enforcement when they knew what they had to deal with."


COMMENT.
These evil subscribers
* to child pornography websites are as guilty as those directly responsible for child sex abuse. Both groups should be incarcerated away from the general population while undergoing treatment, and should work for their keep rather than be kept by the State. They must be separated from families and communities.

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