Gardaí find 70,000 child sex images on man’s computers
Homes of 31 suspects in 12 counties searched in major series of co-ordinated raids
Gardaí are trying to determine whether any of the children in the images of child sexual abuse discovered are Irish. File photograph: Getty Images
Gardaí have found about 70,000 images of child sexual abuse on the computers of one of the men targeted in a major series of raids in recent days.
The images include photographs and videos, and most of those targeted were not known to the Garda before the operation began. Gardaí are trying to determine whether any of the children in the images are Irish.
The homes of 31 suspects were searched in 12 counties including Dublin, Meath, Wicklow, Kerry, Wexford, Kildare, Westmeath, Limerick, Laois and Waterford. Searches were also carried out in a location in the Carlow-Kilkenny Garda division.
A small number of suspects admitted their guilt immediately after gardaí arrived to search their homes. Arrests are expected within the next two weeks. Garda sources said there had been no arrests during the raids as data devices needed to be seized from suspects first and then analysed. It was only when detectives found criminal images, and learned the extent and nature of the illegal material in the possession of each suspect, that arrests and criminal charges would follow. “The properties are flagged but we have to establish what person in that property is involved; there may be a lot of people living there and using the internet,” said one source.
The series of co-ordinated raids – codenamed Operation Ketch – used intelligence supplied from abroad, mainly by law-enforcement agencies in Canada and the United States, including the FBI’s online child exploitation unit.
Internet protocol, or IP, addresses are flagged as having been used to download and share images of child sexual abuse. Each IP address is linked to a physical address.
News of the Garda operation emerged yesterday, with the suspects having had their homes raided and computers, phones and other items taken for examination since the end of last week. While the examination of the computers and other devices seized will take some time, Garda sources said in the region of 150,000 images had been uncovered.