Six arrests made in operation tackling child abuse and grooming

Six arrests were made in four days.
Six arrests were made in four days.

Six men have been arrested by Cleveland Police in an operation tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Two raids were made on homes in Billingham as part of the operation.

The arrests were made in just four days, with the operation particularly focusing on internet-facilitated offending, such as viewing indecent images of children, live streaming of abuse, and grooming.

It saw Cleveland Police join UK and European forces in a National Crime Agency (NCA) led operation.

Eight warrants were executed by Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT) officers under Section Four of the Protection of Children Act.

As well as the two warrants executed in Billingham, there were three in Middlesbrough, two in Redcar and one in Yarm.

Six men were arrested on suspicion of possession of indecent images of children, and one of the men was also arrested on suspicion of grooming offences.

Those arrested were aged between 25 and 75, and all were released under investigation while inquiries continue.

As a result of the warrants, Cleveland Police say 25 children were safeguarded.

Detective Chief Supt Jon Green, Cleveland Police’s head of crime, said: “Tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse is a priority for the force, and our POLIT officers work tirelessly day in and day out to identify people who are using the internet to groom or abuse children or to look at - or distribute - indecent images of children.

“It was important we took part in the operation to reinforce how international commitment and cooperation can tackle these issues and bring offenders to justice.

“Our enforcement work was complemented by educational input by our school liaison officers who led additional internet safety sessions in schools.”

During the warrants, POLIT officers used a van equipped to carry out initial checks of devices found at a suspect's address.

The computer equipment on board means it can quickly be established if a piece of equipment contains any inappropriate material.

Officers from the sex offender management unit also visited over 30 high risk registered sex offenders during the week to ensure no further offences were being committed.

Cleveland Police’s enforcement phase of the activity was supported by an education phase where officers provided online safety talks and activities in schools.

Pupils, teachers and parents were also given information on specialist organisations which offer online safety advice.

POLIT inspector Steve Bell added: “Cleveland Police takes such crimes extremely seriously and we are absolutely committed to bringing offenders to justice.

"We are identifying and pursuing more offenders than ever and this will undoubtedly continue - as will our efforts to protect and safeguard vulnerable children and young people.

“These offenders do not recognise force or national boundaries - and neither do our investigations.

"This international ‘show of strength’ clearly demonstrates law enforcement agencies’ determination to continue to work together to protect children and young people from harm.”