Dorset Police have taken part in an unprecedented national operation to target offenders sharing indecent images of children online.
In a UK first, the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have led a nationally coordinated, six-month operation with 45 police forces in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The operation is ongoing but as of midday on Friday 11 July, 431 children have been safeguarded and over 600 people have been arrested across the UK.
The offences range from accessing indecent images of children to serious sexual assault.
Eight men have been arrested by detectives in Dorset following the receipt of information from the NCA.
Three have been charged and five are currently on police bail pending further enquiries.
Detective Inspector Pete Little, of the Public Protection Unit, said: “The aim of this operation was to protect children who are victims of, or might be at risk of sexual exploitation.
“Children are victimised not only when they are abused and an image is first taken. They are victimised repeatedly every time that image is viewed.
“We know that some of the people who start by accessing indecent images online go on to abuse children directly.”
The NCA developed and disseminated intelligence packages about suspected offenders and passed those to forces across the UK.
Detective Inspector Pete Little continued: “This has not only been about catching people who have already offended – it is also about influencing potential abusers before they cross that horrific line.
“Offenders need to know that the internet is not a safe anonymous space for accessing indecent images. They leave a digital footprint and we will find it.”
Dorset Police are also urging people using the internet to access indecent images of children to get professional help. There is support in place through organisations such as www.stopitnow.org.uk of the Lucy Faithfull Foundation and GPs who can help.
The Paedophile Online Investigation Team can be contacted on 101. In an emergency, always dial 999.