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Gardaí raid 31 premises in child pornography inquiry

February 9, 2018 ·  By Patsy McGarry for www.irishtimes.com

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Thousands of images of child exploitation seized at homes in 12 counties across Ireland

(L to R) Det Supt Declan Daly and Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Driscoll during a media briefing on Operation Ketch at the Serious Crime Operations at Harcourt Square, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

(L to R) Det Supt Declan Daly and Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Driscoll during a media briefing on Operation Ketch at the Serious Crime Operations at Harcourt Square, Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Gardaí have seized tens of thousands images of child pornography in raids at 31 homes in 12 counties since Friday.

The raids were carried out as part of Operation Ketch, set up to target those possessing and distributing child exploitation material. Computers, phones, laptops and other equipment were seized.

No arrests have yet been made but where there were child protection concerns gardaí have been in contact with Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, a press conference was told in Dublin.

None of the victims of child abuse in the images are believed to be Irish.

Digital material seized at the addresses is now being forensically examined with a view to prosecution.

The raids took place about a week after Matthew Horan (26), from Clondalkin, Dublin, was jailed for more than seven years after using social media and other web platforms, including anonymous messaging services, to force girls to send him explicit images. He targeted six children in Ireland and nine unknown users around the world. He had thousands of images on computers.

“In general those in possession of such material were between 25 and 50, a professional person who has some IT skills,” said Det Supt Declan Daly of the Garda’s National Protection Services Bureau.

“The general perception of somebody operating out of a basement or out of a dark room is not the profile. These are people who are well-versed in using the internet and who are between 25 and 50. Not always male, but certainly the vast majority are male,” he said.

Operation Ketch was led by the the Garda’s Online Child Exploitation Unit (Once) at the National Protection Services Bureau in Dublin.

Its timing was designed to co-incide with Safer Internet Day on Tuesday and the launch of the Be in Ctrl programme at secondary schools.

Both are intended to raise awareness of safe online behaviour among young people and empower them to seek help if needed and report suspect cases to gardaí.

“Can I remind parents and children to use the internet safely, to ensure that good communications exists whereby children can inform parents of any suspicious approaches on social media,” said Det Supt Daly.

“Parents and children should, if a request for images is received, not send any images. Don’t send any more images. Tell a parent or adult. Don’t delete anything. Preserve the communication. Block the communication and tell An Garda Síochána, ” he said

Assistance with Operation Ket ch was provided to gardaí by police forces in the US, Canada, Europol and Interpol.

It was targetted at “persons living within our communities who are in possession of or distributing child exploitation material or child pornography either through social network sites or via file sharing networks,” said Det Supt Daly.

He said the raids “should provide a level of assurance to the public of the critical importance place on child protection by An Garda Síochana.”

He said they should also “serve as a stark warning to those who possess, distribute and/or produce such imagery that your homes will be searched, that your sexual interest in children will be exposed and ultimately result in possible prosecution or conviction.”

Assistant Commisioner John O’Driscoll said part of the Garda’s policing plan for the coming year was to stage a least four days of action. “This is the first of those days of action, while we are on a continuous basis dealing with child protection-related issues and in particular related to cybercrime,” he said.

“There are members of An Garda Síochána who were policing the beat in Dublin at the beginning of last year who are now on a new beat. They’re patrolling the internet and are working in the cyber crime unit and in the child protection unit within the Protective Services Bureau, ” he said.

“New forms of crime need a new approach and a flexible approach.”

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