More than 100 police’ under suspicion in paedophilia crackdown
by MARTIN SMITH, Mail on Sunday
A list of more than 2,400 Britons who the FBI believes have subscribed to paedophile websites contains the names of more than 100 police officers, including a detective chief superintendent, it was revealed last night.
But in what was developing into a major scandal, it was also disclosed that it could take under-funded British police up to five years to work their way through the list and bring the culprits to justice.
The list – which contained the names of the two Cambridgeshire police officers who worked on the Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells murder inquiry and who have since been charged with child pornography offences – was supplied to Britain’s National Crime Squad after three people suspected of involvement in paedophile websites were arrested in Texas.
But last night it emerged that most of the 43 police forces in England and Wales working through the list do not have the resources to tackle it. Often the job is passed to private firms.
The arrests of 41-yearold Detective Constable Brian Stevens and PC Tony Goodridge, 34, who worked on the Soham inquiry, highlighted a huge problem which the Government has failed to address.
It was revealed that Stevens, assigned as family liaison officer to Jessica’s parents, and Goodridge were on a list of 279 paedophile suspects in Cambridgeshire.
It raised worrying questions about why they were assigned to the case after the force received the list in July.
The county’s new Chief Constable, TomLloyd, said it was ‘bad luck’ that a shortage of officers meant the list was not examined before the ten-year-olds disappeared. But Cambridgeshire is just one of dozens of forces which just cannot cope with the high-tech crime.
Jack Straw, the former Home Secretary, attempted to address the problem last year when he set up the National High-Tech Crime Unit, but its budget was just £24 million over three years to tackle all computer offences including fraud, hacking, paedophilia, copyright theft and money laundering.
Only around 50 of the 2,400 people in the UK on the American list have been arrested, most of them high-profile targets such as police officers.
But senior police sources have told The Mail on Sunday that there are still at least 100 police officers on the list, including one detective chief superintendent, but it could be up to five years before they are apprehended.
One senior officer said: ‘We are dealing with 21st Century criminals with 19th Century policing. This is an escalating problem but the powers that be have failed to take it seriously.’
In contrast to Britain, all 100 names supplied to Irish police were arrested on one morning.
Another senior detective said: ‘This is a national scandal which no one is doing anything about. The Government has not offered extra money and we simply do not have the resources.
‘What concerns and disheartens many is that some of the offenders whose names we have been given are probably abusing children. In some cases our failure to act has enabled them to carry on with this behaviour.’
Scanning a suspected computer for images the user may have tried to delete or encrypt is a time-consuming process, taking up to a fortnight.
Clive Carmichael-Jones, from computer security firm Vogon said: ‘We have a lot of sympathy for the police. They just do not have enough money to cope. They are not being properly trained and their technology is often years behind.’
Metropolitan Deputy Assistant Commissioner Carol Howlett, agrees that despite an ‘increasing threat to children on the Internet’, not enough priority is given to catching paedophiles.
As another senior officer told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The Government says we are winning the fight against paedophiles but that is nonsense. Police forces across Britain are overwhelmed with child pornography and don’t know what to do about it.’