Oz police arrest 200 in net child porn crackdown

Police officers and doctors among those held

Australian police this week held 191 people and seized more than two million pornographic images of children in the country's biggest crackdown on internet child porn, news.com.au reports.

Among those cuffed were doctors, teachers, police officers, government officials and the owner of three Melbourne childcare centres. All of those held during raids on 400 properties across Australia had apparently logged on to pay-per-view websites run by eastern European crime gangs which have been the focus of a US Customs-led investigation. The alleged paedophiles face charges ranging from "rape and sexual assault to sex tourism and creating and possessing child porn", according to police sources.

Australian High Tech Crime Centre head Mike Phelan said: "This investigation should serve as deterrent to those who seek to engage in this particular crime. They should realise they cannot hide behind their computer."

In Western Australia, two teachers, an assistant to a sitting MP and a police officer were arrested. The Assistant Police Commissioner for Western Australia, Mal Shervill, described the latter's detention as "extremely embarrassing for the police service". In Brisbane, the authorities claimed to have "rescued" seven victims from one paedophile who had been systematically abusing the local youngsters for a number of years.

Justice Minister Chris Ellison expressed his concern at the scale of the paedophile ring: "It demonstrates that with child pornography, you are dealing with people who will go to great lengths to work in with each other. The network is extensive and very sophisticated. You are dealing with the sort of criminal here who is normally intelligent and goes to great lengths to cover their tracks." ®

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