Posted: Wed 9th Mar 2016

New team tackles on-line offending /
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Mar 9th, 2016

A new team has been established by North Wales Police to tackle on-line Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Led by Detective Inspector Sion Williams, significant investment has been made by North Wales Police into the ‘Paedophile On-line Investigation Team’ or ‘POLIT’. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Based in St Asaph, the team includes a Detective Sergeant and eight officers who are co-located and working alongside their colleagues in the High Tech Crime Unit (HTCU) to tackle on-line offending, which has been recognised as a significant emerging threat in the UK. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

‘The focus and drive here is firstly to understand the nature of the on-line offending and then responding in a holistic manner” explained DI Williams. ‘The POLIT consists of a specialist team of officers who are dedicated to deal with this complex area of business on a daily basis. The team work cohesively and deal with specialist lines of investigation, enabling them to quickly identify those who pose the greatest risk to children within our communities.’ ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

‘Once on-line offending is identified, positive action is always taken and any further offences that are discovered are also investigated and dealt with appropriately.’ ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

In 2015, over 60 defendants were charged with a variety of online CSE offences, the vast majority of those generally entering guilty pleas in view of the overwhelming evidence secured against them. Since the POLIT was established in October, the team have already arrested over 40 individuals across the force area. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

DI Williams went on to say: “The team deal with what are essentially digital crime scenes. The officers are fully aware of the expectation upon them and the early indication is that our new approach is working extremely well. We are not purely concentrating on the issues here in North Wales either; we are well connected with what is happening across the rest of Wales and the UK.’ ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

In addition to responding to local intelligence, North Wales Police POLIT team receive referrals from other organisations such as the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and has the ability to undertake cross-border work with neighbouring forces. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

He added: “We have developed a model of working that is intended to combat online CSE in North Wales and beyond, a model that maximises opportunities to safeguard children. Safeguarding is at the heart of what we do and our processes are aligned to work with external agencies but also with other teams within our organisation.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Detective Sergeant Underhill, who is responsible for the daily running of the POLIT, said: “We work closely with our ONYX team which was launched last year. POLIT allows North Wales Police to provide a dynamic operational capability, by identifying and safeguarding children who may be putting themselves at risk and ensuring that those offenders who commit crimes of this type are quickly brought to justice.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“In conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) we have developed a more streamlined process to ensure that those arrested are brought to justice in a more timely manner. This means that we are reducing the risk posed to children within our communities and we reduce the amount of time that suspects remain on bail.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

The investment made by the force into tackling on-line offending has also seen an extra two technicians join the HTCU and further significant investment made in designing a bespoke forensic digital imaging facility at St Asaph. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

Assistant Chief Constable Richard Debicki said: “The investment made by North Wales Police in the Paedophile Online Investigation Team and Hi Tech Crime Unit is a recognition of the changing nature of crime. Offenders are increasingly using the internet and technology to harm children. Safeguarding young people is central to what we are aiming to achieve as an organisation, and is a key priority within the Police and Crime Commissioner’s plan. If people choose to engage in this type of hideous and despicable crime then they can expect that specialist police officers will be able to detect their activity. We will bring offenders to justice who exploit children online in this way.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick CB QC said: “The setting up of this new team is of enormous importance because those who suffer the crime, and those who know of others who have suffered the crime, now know that there is someone whose business it is to look into it and to ascertain all the relevant facts about it and to look for the perpetrators and to bring them to justice. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“It is vitally important the force has the proactive capability to identify the vile people who are guilty of child sexual exploitation, including those accessing indecent images of children through the internet and effective multi-agency working to protect children identified as being at risk. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“Our positive response will create confidence amongst the public that the North Wales force – working in partnership with other agencies – has decided to get to grips with this big problem to make sure that children are safe online. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“This is yet another example of North Wales Police providing an effective response to a serious a serious crime. It is a further demonstration of the force’s determination to keep children safe” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

“At a time of financial cutbacks, what you’re constrained to do is to re-arrange your priorities and there’s nothing more reassuring for the public to see than that the police is identifying emerging crimes and re-arranging especially to focus on those.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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