Police swoop on Internet paedophiles

Largest ever UK raids

A series of raids was mounted this morning on the homes of suspected Internet paedophiles.

Operation Appal, which was led by Greater Manchester Police's (GMP) obscene publications unit, focused on individuals suspected of using the Internet to exchange and store obscene pictures of children. It is the culmination of a four month investigation led by GMP.

A spokeswoman for GMP said the operation was the largest ever operation of its kind in the UK and involved raids on 43 address by 25 police forces and the seizure of computer equipment.

So far 22 people have been arrested and are being questioned about offences related to the Protection of Children Act. More arrests are likely to follow.

In a statement, Inspector Terry Jones of GMP's Obscene Publications Unit said: "Work by the Obscene Publications Unit identifies those people abusing one of the most vulnerable groups in our society, and we will continue to track down those individuals who believe the Internet gives them the anonymity to continue to trade in obscene pictures."

SurfControl, whose Internet filtering software recently blocked access to The Register for many of our readers, was responsible for providing GMP with customised software to help officers locate and track Internet users involved in possessing and distributing indecent images of children.

According to SurfControl, where previously 60 man-hours of Internet checking were needed to develop leads on 16 suspects using its software meant the same task could be performed in 16 man-hours. This allowed police resources to be directed more efficiently.

A spokeswoman for GMP assured us that officers "manually checked" all the content flagged as obscene by the SurfControl software. This provides welcome reassurance for us at Vulture Central, we thought SoHo's dirty squad might be coming round to kick our door in.

SurfControl's Cyber Patrol blocked The Register in order to " prevent [customer's] children or pupils from being able to surf Web sites containing sexually explicit, racist or inflammatory material".

This ban, followed our publication of a story (carried by other news services - who weren't blacklisted) about a site that provided information on how to disable filtering software, called Peacefire.org. SurfControl subsequently lifted its censorship of The Register after a large number of our adult readers objected to its actions. ®

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