Six Arrests as Force Participates in Europe-Wide Action on Online Child Abuse and Grooming

Six men were arrested in just four days as Cleveland Police joined UK and European forces in a National Crime Agency (NCA) led operation tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse.

The operation focused particularly on internet facilitated offending such as viewing indecent images of children, live streaming of abuse, and grooming.

POLIT (Paedophile Online Investigation Team) officers executed eight warrants under Section 4 of the Protection of Children Act at addresses across the force area in late October/early November.

The six men were arrested on suspicion of possession of indecent images of children and in one instance the man was also arrested on suspicion of grooming offences.

During the warrants POLIT officers made full use of the team’s recent acquisition – a van equipped to carry out initial checks of devices found at a suspect’s address.

The computer equipment on board the van means Digital Forensic Unit Examiners could look at each piece of equipment as it was confiscated from an address and quickly establish if it contained any inappropriate material.  They could then assess whether the equipment should be seized for further examination, or returned.

This speeds up the otherwise lengthy process of analysing devices for inappropriate and criminal material such as indecent images and evidence of online grooming. 

Officers from the Sex Offender Management Unit also visited over 30 high risk registered sex offenders during the week to ensure no further offences were being committed.

And Cleveland Police’s enforcement phase of the activity was supported by an education phase where officers provided online safety talks and activities in schools.  Pupils, teachers and parents were also given information on specialist organisations which offer online safety advice.

Detective Chief Supt Jon Green, Cleveland Police’s Head of Crime said: “Tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse is a priority for the force and our POLIT officers work tirelessly day in and day out to identify people who are using the internet to groom or abuse children or to look at - or distribute - indecent images of children. 

“It was important we took part in the operation to reinforce how international commitment and cooperation can tackle these issues and bring offenders to justice.

“Our enforcement work was complemented by educational input by our School Liaison Officers who led additional internet safety sessions in schools.”

POLIT Inspector Steve Bell added: “Cleveland Police takes such crimes extremely seriously and we are absolutely committed to bringing offenders to justice.  We are identifying and pursuing more offenders than ever and this will undoubtedly continue - as will our efforts to protect and safeguard vulnerable children and young people.

“These offenders do not recognise Force or national boundaries - and neither do our investigations.  This international ‘show of strength’ clearly demonstrates law enforcement agencies’ determination to continue to work together to protect children and young people from harm.”

Warrants were executed in Middlesbrough (3 warrants), Billingham (2 warrants), Redcar (2 warrants) and Yarm (1 warrant)

Six men, aged between 25 and 75, were arrested.  All were released under investigation while inquiries continue.

Twenty five children were safeguarded as a result of the warrants.

Below are some useful links on how parents and carers can keep children safe online: