A major police investigation into online child pornography is
struggling to secure convictions because forces do not have the
resources to conduct investigations.
Operation Ore, which was launched last April, is responsible for
investigating more than 7,000 people – hundreds of whom are
believed to be employed within the social care sector – who have
accessed websites containing child pornography.
But more than a year after the UK-wide hunt began, it has emerged
that police forces are overwhelmed by the huge scale of the
operation and have slowed down their work.
In Scotland, where 350 suspects were identified, the 16-month
investigation has ended but the Association of Chief Police
Officers in Scotland was unable to confirm how many convictions
were brought against those investigated.
There are also fears police will be further overwhelmed by a new
list of British suspects, exceeding the 7,000, handed to them by US
In 2002, the number of reports made to the Internet Watch
Foundation, an organisation that works to cut the number of images
of child abuse on the internet, rose by 64 per cent.
Ray Wyre, an expert on paedophiles, told Community Care
that an inquiry into how the operation was being conducted should
be launched. He claimed too many cases were not being properly
pursued and that police did not have the advanced technological
skills or money – it costs an estimated £2,000 to examine a
computer – to conduct rigorous checks.
Police forces have been given no extra money to carry out their
Operation Ore work and, with child protection not a priority under
the National Policing Plan, police forces might choose to direct
funding towards areas measured by the Home Office.
A report released last week by the National Crime Intelligence
Service has also revealed that online child sex offenders are
exchanging information about methods for keeping their activities
from the police and debriefing people who have been arrested about
research techniques used by police.
Meanwhile, the Crown Prosecution Service said that last week’s
acquittal of Soham policeman Brian Stevens over questionable
evidence from an IT expert could lead to the review of 600 other
cases involving the same expert and had already led to the
adjournment of a case against a teacher at Exeter magistrates