Six arrests in East Lancashire as part of internet child sex investigation (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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Six arrests in East Lancashire as part of internet child sex investigation
SIX people have been arrested in connection with child sex offences in East Lancashire during a national crackdown on internet paedophiles.
Detectives swooped on 99 suspected offenders across the UK in a two day operation, including nine in the county.
Officers said at least 80 youngsters had been protected from further abuse.
Those arrested included: A 51-year-old-man in Cleveleys accused of grooming a 15-year-old Blackburn boy online. He was bailed pending further inquiries.
A 45-year-old man from Chatburn arrested on suspicion of possessing indecent images of a child and released with a caution.
A 46-year-old man from Burnley arrested on suspicion of possessing and distributing indecent images of children. He was bailed pending further inquiries.
A 30-year-old woman from Burnley arrested on suspicion of distributing indecent images. Bailed pending further inquiries.
A 23-year-old man from Barnoldswick arrested on suspicion of inciting a girl to engage in sexual activity. He was bailed.
It is understood two other inquires relating to offences in Blackburn are also continuing.
Police also said a man had been arrested in Cumbria on suspicion of offences committed in Chorley.
The arrests were part of a co-ordinated operation involving 40 police forces for a range of internet-based child sex offences, including downloading indecent images of children, grooming youngsters online and mobile phone, and actual abuse.
More than 140 search warrants were issued in the swoop led by the London-based Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).
The operation came after a child protection watchdog warned MPs invesigating a Rochdale gang sex grooming case that there was a national problem.
Sergeant Mark Whelan, of the Blackburn with Darwen multi-disciplinary Engage Team, a national leader in tackling child sexual exploitation, said: “It is absolutely certain that the use of the internet and technology in child sexual abuse is growing.
“It is an area that Lancashire Police in Eastern Division and our partners in Blackburn with Darwen Council, Lancashire County Council and the charity and voluntary sector are increasingly concerned about.
“I cannot say for certain that there is a direct link between downloading internet pornography, child grooming and actual abuse of individual children but most cases of grooming and child sexual exploitation we come across now have an internet, mobile phone or technology element.
“Use of the internet and technology has increased massively in the general population in the past five or ten years and so has its use by these criminals.
“The subtlety and cleverness of how they use it has grown and the police response has had to keep up and wherever possible get ahead of them.”
Nick McPartlan, leader of the Engage Team, said: “It is a fact that now 99 per cent of cases of child sexual exploitation that we deal with now involve some form of internet or mobile phone technology. In the four years our team has been working this has been a growing factor in these offences.”
The nationwide crackdown, which saw a retired teacher, members of the armed forces and a scout leader arrested, coincided with a CEOP Report on the risk posed by people who possess indecent images of children.
Lancashire police said warrants had been executed at suspects address, computers seized along with other potential evidence, and the nine arrests made.
Detective Superintendent Ian Critchley, head of Public Protection at the force, said: “Each indecent image of a young person on a computer identifies at least one child that has been abused.
“As a result of our pro-active work, together with that of CEOP in identifying users of websites that carry such abhorrent images, we arrested over 180 individuals last year in Lancashire for possession of indecent images.
“Further examination of computers often highlights that offenders have gone on to distribute indecent images to others, spreading the abuse.
“We are worryingly seeing an increase in offenders who are attempting to groom young people through the internet, in order to sexually exploit them. ”