Gardaí hunt child porn users as 23 properties raided

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Gardaí hunt child porn users as 23 properties raided


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A countrywide drive against child pornography users and distributors will be stepped up by gardaí after raids in 11 counties.

Officers seized computers containing child porn material during raids on 23 addresses in Leinster, Munster and Ulster.

The year-old operation, codenamed Ketch, was led by the online child exploitation unit (OnCE) at the Garda National Protective Services Bureau.

The searches, which were carried out over a number of days, were part of phase five of Ketch, with OnCE officers, armed with warrants issued under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, backed up by members of the newly established divisional protection service units and local detectives.

Six of the searches were in Dublin, six in Cork, two each in Monaghan and Donegal and one in Clare, Carlow, Cavan, Meath, Louth, Limerick and Kerry.

The raids are expected to result in arrests of targeted suspects, alleged to have been involved in the possession and distribution of child exploitation material, either through social network sites or file sharing.

The raids were timed to coincide with Safer Internet Day, which is aimed at advising students about safe online behaviour and encouraging them to report incidents to gardaí.

Officers believe a forensic examination of the seized computers and material will lead them to the identity of other suspects, although many of the users are involved in onion routing, where there are multiple layers designed to mask IP addresses and preserve anonymity.

Last February, 38 addresses were searched as part of Ketch and two of the suspects identified were juveniles, who were referred to the diversion programme.

In July, a further 38 raids led to the seizure of child sex dolls while another 34 searches in September uncovered a business selling the dolls online.

A man was arrested and a file is being prepared by gardaí for the Director of Public Prosecutions, who will determine if criminal charges should be brought.

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During the fourth phase of Ketch in December, 27 addresses were hit by gardaí and a haul of cocaine and cannabis, with a street value of €7,000, was found. A total of 137 addresses were searched during 2018.

Throughout the operation, gardaí are maintaining liaison with the Child and Family Agency regarding any child protection concerns that arise.

Last night, OnCE advised internet users to protect their online life and use the maximum privacy settings.

It also urged people to be aware that those online might not be who they claim to be.

A spokesperson also warned people to keep control online by not sharing explicit or intimate images with anyone.

Anyone who believes they are a victim of this type of crime should preserve the evidence and device, without deleting anything; don’t share anything else or pay anything; stop the communication; seek help; and report the incident to the Garda through the local station, in an emergency phone 999 or 112 or contact the Garda child sexual abuse reporting line on 1800 555 222.

A Garda spokesperson said: “An Garda Síochána wishes to reassure the community, through operations and awareness campaigns such as these and other ongoing work by the Online Child Exploitation Unit, that we will relentlessly pursue those involved in the sexual exploitation of children, including those who possess, import and distribute child abuse material.”

Irish Independent


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