AFP releases 400 search warrants for online child porn investigation

Four hundred search warrants have been executed by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) as part of the crackdown on Internet child pornography.Hundreds of people across Australia will be prosecuted for child sex offences following the nation's largest ever crackdown on online child porn.

Four hundred search warrants have been executed by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) as part of the crackdown on Internet child pornography.

Hundreds of people across Australia will be prosecuted for child sex offences following the nation's largest ever crackdown on online child porn.

The investigation, codenamed Operation Auxin, began last March and culminated this week with the execution of around 400 search warrants across all capital cities and a number of regional and country areas.

The operation was coordinated by the Australian High Tech Crime Centre (AHTCC) and involved the AFP and all State and Territory police agencies.

Acting director of the AHTCC Mike Phelan said the police operation, which is part of a sustained campaign, should send a clear message that child exploitation will not be tolerated.

"Conducting business from behind a computer screen doesn't make the crime any less heinous and doesn't guarantee the perpetrator's protection from police detection," he said.

"Some people involved in this type of activity don't see that viewing and disseminating photographs is a crime but every child pornographic image portrays a real victim and records an act of abuse against a child," Phelan added.

Over the past six days, police have uncovered what appears to be child pornography photographic studios hidden within suburban homes, as well as libraries involving hundreds of thousands of images dating back more than two decades.

Police in all States and Territories have seized computer hard drives, boxes of images, cameras and other equipment believed to be used in the manufacture and distribution of child pornography.

More than 150 people have already been charged with 2,000 offences including child sex tourism, sexual abuse and downloading, possessing or distributing child pornographic images.

Hundreds more are expected to be summoned to appear before court where they will be formally charged with similar offences.

"The scale of this operation paints a worrying picture in relation to the extent and spread of online child pornography," said Phelan.

"In this electronic age, child pornography has become a global crime. Operation Auxin is the result of extensive intelligence analysis including information from a large US investigation last year called Operation Falcon.

The final statistics from Operation Auxin will not be known for several days. However there is no doubt that this operation has been a very successful collaborative effort between Australian and overseas police jurisdictions as well as the internet industry, financial institutions, child protection agencies and the Australian Institute of Criminology," said Phelan.

Phelan is confident that the operation will have a "strong deterrent affect" on others who might be tempted to engage in online child pornography.

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