A number of Scots are among 450 people arrested in the UK after police uncovered an online platform where pictures and videos of child sexual abuse were being shared.
The content found was described as some of the most ‘horrific and devastating’ material investigators had ever seen.
An 18 month old toddler was one of the victims seen in the footage.
An investigation was launched in October 2019 when the platform was uncovered by authorities in New Zealand.
They identified tens of thousands of global users and accounts created in the UK were passed on to the National Crime Agency (NCA).
So far, 450 UK-based users of the platform have been arrested by police, Regional Organized Crime Units (ROCUs) and the NCA, for a variety of child sexual abuse offences.
The NCA were not able to give a breakdown of regional numbers but told the Record that “there were cases in Scotland”.
Many of the offenders in Scotland the UK were found to be working in positions of trust, including at primary schools and nurseries, within law enforcement, as medical professionals, and some as religious officials.
Other suspects were in the process of applying for jobs working or volunteering with children.
Many were initially arrested for their roles in sharing child abuse material on the sickening platform, but this led investigators to uncover further serious offending, including contact abuse.
NCA investigations alone have led to the arrest of 95 people, with 42 having been charged to date and 28 convicted.
NCA officers have also safeguarded 79 children.
They included a man with screenshots of a live video call where an eight-year-old girl was being sexually abused, a male directing the abuse of hundreds of children around the world, and a man working in a children’s home as a night support working .
Sarah Blight, Deputy Director of the Child Sexual Abuse Threat at the National Crime Agency, said: “This has, and continues to be, a hugely important operation.
“The information received from our partners in New Zealand pointed to a significant number of online accounts linked to individuals in the UK, who likely pose a sexual threat to children.
“After analyzing this data, we were able to prioritize those offenders believed to pose the highest risk, and share details with our policing partners throughout the UK.
“This has so far led to the arrest of 450 suspects, some of whom were already known to law enforcement and many of whom were working in positions of trust.
“Much of this activity took place during the Covid-19 lockdowns, when the majority of young people were at home and offenders had more time to spend online targeting their victims. Identifying and safeguarding vulnerable children during this period was our absolute priority.
“Work is very much ongoing across the country to disrupt more of these sexual predators.
“Each month the NCA and UK policing arrest around 850 suspects and safeguard over 1,050 children.
“The NCA is focusing on the most dangerous offenders; we have the specialist capabilities to identify them and ensure they are brought to justice.”
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