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South Yorkshire police arrested and released a child abuser who was on the run, despite him being listed on a recently-launched online "most wanted" database.

Joshua Karney, 30, was arrested in Barnsley on 24 November for drunkenness. Karney, described as having a strong Dublin accent, was fined and then released.

A later fingerprint check revealed he had given false details, and officers had failed to recognise him as one of the five most wanted paedophiles in the UK, as publicly listed by the the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

The hunt for Karney began in 2005 when he failed to report to police after being released from prison on licence.

In a statement, South Yorkshire police said: ""We regret greatly that Joshua Karney was released from custody. An investigation is now under way into the full circumstances to establish how this happened."

CEOP's online list was launched in late 2006 in a bid to track down missing sex offenders, and has reported several successes with the help of the public.

In December it appealed for more information on Karney. CEOP chief executive Jim Gamble said at the time: "You will be caught - there is no place to hide." Except police stations, apparently. ®

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