MORE than 600 suspected paedophiles have been arrested in the UK, including 11 in North Yorkshire.
Doctors, teachers, Scout leaders, care workers and former police officers, who had unsupervised access to children at work, were among those arrested as part of Operation Notarise.
The investigation was carried out over six months by the National Crime Agency, involving 45 police forces.
Acting on intelligence provided by the NCA, police in North Yorkshire arrested 10 individuals under the operation, with an eleventh arrest made after links were made to an existing investigation.
Those arrested included three from York, one from Selby and others from Harrogate, Scarborough, Craven and Richmondshire areas, said police. All are male, white, aged between 14 and 70, some are married and some have children of their own. They have all been bailed.
Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Mason, head of crime, said: “This operation targeted suspected paedophiles accessing child abuse images online. Those responsible for such offending believed they were operating in an environment that was safe for them and would go undetected.
“The message is a simple one; no such place exists and perpetrators need to be under no doubt whatsoever that this type of offending will continue to be targeted with every effort made to secure criminal convictions and safeguard the children concerned.”
The operation targeted people who accessed indecent images of children online.
Details were only released today to protect children and secure evidence.
Of the 660 national arrests, 39 were already on the Sex Offenders register, but many had not previously been known to police, and the NCA said 400 children had been safeguarded by the arrests.
In Humberside, 19 people have so far been arrested or interviewed under the operation.
NCA deputy director general Phil Gormley said this was the first operation of its kind in the UK, and should serve as a warning to offenders.
He said: “Our aim was to protect children who were victims of, or might be at risk of, sexual exploitation.
A child is victimised not only when they are abused and an image is taken.
They are re-victimised every time that image is viewed by someone.
“Some of the people who start by accessing indecent images online go on to abuse children directly.
So the operation is not only about catching people who have already offended – it is about influencing potential offenders before they cross that line.
We want those offenders to know that the internet is not a safe anonymous space for accessing indecent images, that they leave a digital footprint, and that law enforcement will find it.”
DCS Mason said: “We all have a responsibility to protect our children and it is vital that anyone who believes someone is involved in child abuse – which includes viewing images of abuse on their computer or mobile device – tells the police. It cannot , and must not, be kept hidden.”
• If you suspect someone is viewing child abuse online or abusing or exploiting children, phone the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency