North Wales Police set up new unit to hunt internet Paedophiles
North Wales Police dedicated new team aimed at combating the growing threat from online Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) has made 40 arrests in first three months.
Led by Detective Inspector Sion Williams, the new St Asaph based ‘Paedophile On-line Investigation Team’ or ‘POLIT’ has benefited from significant investment by North Wales Police.
The team includes a Detective Sergeant and eight officers who are co-located and working alongside their colleagues in the High Tech Crime Unit (HTCU) to tackle on-line offending.
60% of CSE happens online and the figure is on the increase, crimes associated with CSE include ‘grooming’ – possession, downloading, making and distributing indecent images of children.
[x_blockquote type=”left”]101 people were arrested in 2015 within the North Wales Region for the possessing, making and distributing indecent images of children. – freedom of information request[/x_blockquote]
In 2015, over 60 defendants were charged with a variety of online CSE offences, the vast majority of those generally entering guilty pleas in view of the overwhelming evidence secured against them.
Since the POLIT was established in October, the team have already arrested over 40 individuals across the force area.
‘Once on-line offending is identified, positive action is always taken and any further offences that are discovered are also investigated and dealt with appropriately.’ said Detective Inspector Sion Williams
“The team deal with what are essentially digital crime scenes. The officers are fully aware of the expectation upon them and the early indication is that our new approach is working extremely well.
“We are not purely concentrating on the issues here in North Wales either; we are well connected with what is happening across the rest of Wales and the UK.’
In addition to responding to local intelligence, North Wales Police POLIT team receive referrals from other organisations such as the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and has the ability to undertake cross-border work with neighbouring forces.
[x_blockquote type=”left”]Last August the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) concluded North Wales Police had ‘no case to answer’ following an investigation into how it dealt with intelligence from Project Spade in Toronto, Canada, an international police investigation into child pornography which identified a number of people in North Wales having used child pornography websites and purchasing related material[/x_blockquote]
The investment made by the force into tackling on-line offending has also seen an extra two technicians join the HTCU and further significant investment made in designing a bespoke forensic digital imaging facility at St Asaph.
Assistant Chief Constable Richard Debicki said:
“The investment made by North Wales Police in the Paedophile Online Investigation Team and Hi Tech Crime Unit is a recognition of the changing nature of crime. Offenders are increasingly using the internet and technology to harm children. Safeguarding young people is central to what we are aiming to achieve as an organisation, and is a key priority within the Police and Crime Commissioner’s plan. If people choose to engage in this type of hideous and despicable crime then they can expect that specialist police officers will be able to detect their activity. We will bring offenders to justice who exploit children online in this way.”
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