339 held in paedophile crackdown

A total of 339 suspected paedophiles have been arrested by police targeting online abusers in the past 15 months.

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Police Scotland said it has carried out enforcement targeting online paedophiles in all of the country's 14 policing divisions since the force was created in April 2013.

Those arrested include a paediatric nurse working with vulnerable children and their families from 1995 until his resignation in November 2013. He was convicted of making, possessing and distributing indecent images of children from his home address.

He recently pleaded guilty and was bailed to appear for sentencing on July 29, police said.

In a separate case, a senior court official suspected of possession of indecent images of children resigned from his position and tendered a guilty plea.

Detective Superintendent Steven Wilson, of the 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."

Thirteen of those arrested north of the border were caught as part of a six-month operation co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and involving 45 police forces across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It led to the arrest of 660 suspected paedophiles across the UK.

Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said: "There is no hiding place for criminals who offend by targeting the most vulnerable in our communities by committing sexual abuse, which includes abuse committed and viewed via the internet for their own gratification or the gratification of others.

"The police service in Scotland has a strong track record of catching offenders going back to Operation Alba, which was the first nationally co-ordinated activity of its kind in Scotland.

"Over the past five years and through the formation of the single service, our focus has been on making sure we proactively use new technologies and a full range of investigative techniques to prevent paedophiles using the internet to exploit the vulnerable and cause harm.

"Police Scotland has co-operated with the NCA operation which is another example of how law enforcement can successfully work together to combat the online threat."

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