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450 people arrested for using child abuse platform in UK

Law enforcement agencies have arrested 450 people in the UK for using an online platform to trade child sexual abuse material.

The site had some of the most “horrific and disturbing” material investigators had seen. It included a particularly sadistic set of videos which showed the torture, rape, and sexual abuse of three kidnapped young girls, one of whom was an 18 month old toddler. 

Authorities in New Zealand, where the platform was based, launched an investigation in October 2019 and identified tens of thousands of global users. 

Among them was Robert Stanley, of Tilbury, who was found to have accessed three Category A child abuse videos. 

National Crime Agency (NCA) officers arrested him in April 2020 and discovered screenshots of a video call with his partner, Danielle Schofield, where she sexually abused an eight-year-old girl.

Robert Stanley abused an eight-year-old girl

Messages also showed the pair fantasising about kidnapping, gagging and keeping a child chained up as their “sex slave”. They were jailed for a total of seven years and nine months in April 2021.

Kent Police also discovered Steven Skelton, of Folkestone, had been directing the abuse of hundreds of children around the world.

He had more than 230 videos showing victims as young as seven live streaming themselves between 2019 and 2020. He was jailed for ten years last August. 

A spokesperson for the NCA said many UK offenders were working in positions of trust, including at primary schools and nurseries, within law enforcement, as medical professionals and some as religious officials. 

“This has, and continues to be, a hugely important operation,” said Sarah Blight, deputy director of the Child Sexual Abuse Threat at the National Crime Agency. 

“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 analysing this data, we were able to prioritise 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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