National Crime Agency arrests hundreds in online child abuse sting

Over 650 people have been arrested as part of a National Crime Agency [NCA] investigation into online child abuse images and 431 children have been protected as a result.

Related: An MP and a paedophile: Google inundate with removal request over “right to be forgotten”

The NCA arrested a total of 660 people that includes people from all walks of life such as doctors, teachers, scout leaders, former police officers and care workers, and most of them had no previous contact with the police.

“This is the first time the UK has had the capability to coordinate a single targeted operation of this nature. Over the past six months we have seen unprecedented levels of cooperation to deliver this result,” stated NCA deputy director general Phil Gormley. “Our aim was to protect children who were victims of, or might be at risk of, sexual exploitation. A child is victimised not only when they are abused and an image is taken. They are re-victimised every time that image is viewed by someone.”

Of those arrested none were current or former MPs or members of the government and just 39 of the arrested are registered sex offenders. The NCA added that 431 children “in the care, custody or control” of the suspects are now protected as a result of the arrests and 127 of them were said to be at immediate risk of harm.

The investigation involved 45 police forces across the UK and the level of cooperation between forces has been called “unprecedented.” A total of 833 properties were searched by officers and during the raids 9,172 computers, phones and hard drives were examined.

Gormley told the BBC that the “dark net” isn’t even a safe haven for paedophiles and that it can also detect those using that to share content.

"We want those offenders to know that the internet is not a safe anonymous space for accessing indecent images, that they leave a digital footprint, and that law enforcement will find it,” he stated.

Related: Thousands of paedophiles using the dark net, as online child abuse continues to grow

Details of a BBC investigation published last month showed that tens of thousands of paedophiles were reportedly using the dark net to circulate images whilst allegedly staying out of the reach of the NCA and how it tackles this could be key to future arrests.