The National Crime Agency are in the process of carrying out the largest investigation of its kind in Britain, and, in my view, what they have uncovered calls into question the kind of society we now live in.
The investigation, Operation Notarise, was set up to target online paedophile activity as there were clearly concerns that such activity was on the increase.
The investigation involves every police force in the UK, and although the investigation was only recently commenced what has been uncovered thus far is truly shocking.
There are tens of millions of obscene images of children being traded by paedophiles on the internet, which is a staggering figure in itself, but I suspect that many would imagine that those involved would be previously known to the police.
The police have identified 10,000 suspects with 660 individuals already arrested, yet they believe this to be the tip of the iceberg. They estimate that 50,000 people in the UK access child abuse images and videos. Of those arrested 90 per cent had no previous involvement with the police over sex offending.
This obviously confirms that these are not the usual suspects, and that they are likely to come from all walks of life. This then raises the question as to who would be involved in such crime, which the vast majority would see as abhorrent?
The answer is even more concerning as those arrested include six teachers, with four more with direct links to schools, two doctors, two serving police personnel, two former police officers, a Scout leader and two care workers.
Given the scale of the investigation, and the numbers involved, the police accept that they are unlikely to be able to arrest all suspects. Even if they were other elements of the criminal justice system, such as the courts and prisons, would struggle to cope. Given this the police are currently concentrating on those in positions of trust, and particularly those with access to children.
The police state that the investigation has led to more than 400 children being protected from harm which is comforting, but the resources should be made available so that all involved are brought to justice.