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Raids target internet paedophiles
More than 40 police forces have been involved in raids as part of an operation targeting suspected internet paedophiles.
Several people have been arrested in the raids which have taken place over the last 48 hours in the operation led by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop).
A spokeswoman for Ceop said there have been two days of "operational activity" involving more than 40 forces across the UK. She said: "There have been a number of warrants that have been executed and a number of arrests that have been made."
Ceop is publishing a report on the risk posed by people who possess indecent images of children and recommendations about how police can protect children. The specialist police child protection unit warns that anyone caught downloading child abuse images online poses a risk of committing physical sex attacks on children.
The images are becoming more extreme, sadistic and violent, but the severity and number of images held by offenders are not enough alone to assess the risk they pose or the sentence they should receive, the report said.
The warning comes after a watchdog claimed that serious child abuse was rife across England, saying that girls as young as 11 "expect" to have to perform sex acts on rows of boys for up to two hours at a time in parts of London.
Deputy children's commissioner Sue Berelowitz told MPs her in-depth study of the problem suggested there "isn't a town, village or hamlet in which children are not being sexually exploited".
Ceop urged police forces to prioritise the investigation of anyone caught with child abuse images who has easy access to children. And it called for the authorities to look beyond the quantity and severity of the images, adding that a full risk assessment should be considered before a judge hands down any sentence.
The notion that any case may result in the identification of a victim should be at the forefront of every investigation, Ceop said. Its report said: "The landscape of austerity coupled with the increasing volumes of work that child protection teams are faced with in the UK is unprecedented."
Referrals to Ceop increased by 181% between April last year and March alone, figures showed.