Huge raid on alleged Net paedophiles

Another British Net paedophile ring busted

A simultaneous raid of 45 suspected Net paedophile homes has been carried out early Tuesday morning, following a three-month investigation by Greater Manchester police.

The investigation, dubbed Operation Appal, tracked down 45 men believed to be involved in the possession and distribution of illegal child pornography.

Greater Manchester's obscene publication's unit co-ordinated a series of raids across the country at 7am this morning with the help of 25 forces across England, Scotland and Wales.

Search warrants were issued under the Protection of Children Act, which makes it illegal to possess or trade indecent images of children over the Net. The Act was amended in January to increase the sentence for possession of illegal Internet content from six months to five years, while the penalty for distributing pornographic or paedophile content rose from three years to ten years.

Police used specific Internet filtering software to help the unit locate and track down computer users trading paedophile images on the Web. "The joint project shows that the tools are available to help safeguard Internet users -- whether at home or in the workplace -- against inappropriate or illegal material, and also against individuals with indecent or malicious intent," said Steve Purdham, chief executive of SurfControl who developed the filtering software.

In February, seven British men were jailed for their involvement in the notorious paedophile ring known as the Wonderland Club. On 2 September 1998 an international police operation dubbed Operation Cathedral involving 12 countries successfully seized nearly a million child porn images as well as 1,800 "computerised videos" depicting children suffering sexual abuse. The paedophiles were given sentences ranging from 12 to 30 months -- no one received the maximum possible sentence of three years.

Greater Manchester police has confirmed that 22 successful arrests have been made to date.

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