herald

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Child sex dolls seized as gardai raid homes of 31 suspected paedophiles

Top garda John O'Driscoll
Top garda John O'Driscoll

A number of child sex dolls have been seized as part of a garda operation targeting paedophiles.

Thirty-one homes around the country have been raided in recent days in a crackdown on those suspected of possessing, importing and distributing child pornography.

The searches, which were carried out under Operation Ketch, also resulted in computers, phones and other equipment being confiscated.

Gardai said 20pc of the intelligence received by officers was from social media sites.

Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll said it is the first time that child sex dolls "have represented a concern in Ireland".

"It's an issue that we have discussed in recent times with customs officials," he said.

"We are aware that they have been imported to the State and a number of them have been seized at points of entry.

"But this is the first time we have come across one in a search of this nature.

"It's an added concern in an area that gives rise to considerable concern, to say the least."

Demographic

The Assistant Commissioner added that he hoped operations like this would discourage those who engage in child pornography.

There have been no arrests over the seizures, and it has been confirmed that none of the garda targets were women in this phase of the operation.

Mr O'Driscoll added that there was no specific demographic for those who possess child abuse images.

"You have young people, like teens, right up to elderly men and women possessing child pornography," he said.

"They have various know-ledge of the internet - some are very capable on the internet while others will be less capable."

In February, 38 premises were searched in the first phase of Operation Ketch.

Two suspects identified were under the age of 18 and have been referred to the Juvenile Div- ersion Programme. A third suspect has recently been charged.

Seven suspects have made admissions regarding their online activities to date.

The remaining cases are subject to ongoing investigations.

In one case, terabytes of material were seized, which amounted to more than 1,000 hours of child abuse video.

This week's high-profile operation comes five months after gardai raided 31 properties in 12 counties.

Authorities seized computers and phones containing "tens of thousands" of child abuse images shared via social media sites or file-sharing networks.

A key priority of Operation Ketch is to establish if any of the children in the indecent images remain in danger.

Gardai have repeatedly urged parents and children to use the internet safely and to report all cases of cyber crime.

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