August 20, 2008

PSNI Arrest Man As Child Sex Abuse Probe Spreads

A GLOBAL investigation into internet child abuse has spread to Northern Ireland, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

The PSNI arrested a man in a major inquiry into an online paedophile forum in the UK as investigators said they believe they will locate thousands of subscribers to the internet site around the world.

Details of the inquiry came to light following the jailing of the internet forum's 'librarian' at Teeside Crown Court in England earlier this week.

Philip Anthony Thompson (27) had 241,000 indecent images of children on computer equipment at his home.

He played a key role in maintaining the forum, which was established as a place where paedophiles could be introduced to one another.

The site was discovered by the Metropolitan Police's Paedophile Unit in May last year and the investigation quickly developed into a national and then an international effort involving 12 UK police forces and agencies in 33 countries, including Australia, the US and Canada.

It also emerged that the PSNI is one of the police forces involved in the inquiry, codenamed Operation Elm. It is understood a number of different operations have since been launched in connection with Elm.

The man held in relation to the inquiry in Northern Ireland is one of 50 people arrested across the UK so far, including a firefighter, a university lecturer and a police community support officer.

It is understood the local man is currently on police bail.

A PSNI spokesman said: "The PSNI has made one arrest in connection with a UK-wide operation against images of child abuse."

Police would not reveal any further details about the man's arrest.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, which is headed by Northern Ireland man Jim Gamble and developed the operation on a national and international level, said that because of the investigation 15 children from the UK had been safeguarded from abuse.

Mr Gamble said: "This website - while appearing to operate on the margins of legality - was clearly a front for the sinister, sexual abuse of children and an image trading ground for paedophiles."

Originally published by CRIME CORRESPONDENT [email protected]

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