Nearly 90 suspected paedophiles snared in West Midlands last year - The Solihull Observer

Nearly 90 suspected paedophiles snared in West Midlands last year

Solihull Editorial 19th Mar, 2018   0

A TOTAL of 85 suspected paedophiles were caught last year by a specialist crime unit working in the West Midlands.

The West Midlands Police’s Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) assembled last year to snare sex offenders.

The team has been active on social media, instant messaging apps and other online platforms for more than a decade.

It made the highest number of annual arrests in its history.

A total of 83 men and two women were caught by under-the-radar officers in those 12 months.

Twenty-five have been convicted and collectively jailed for 68 years, while another 42 have been charged and are going through the court process.

Detective inspector Stephen Wills from the ROCU heads the investigations arm of the covert team. He said: “Our unit has a 100 per cent conviction rate at court, such is the strength of the evidence we collate, and not a single suspect has opted for a court trial.

“Vigilante ‘paedophile hunter’ groups have emerged in recent times and there seems to be a perception that police are not doing this work − but that’s absolutely not the case.

“We’ve been active online, working alongside social media providers, and protecting children for many years and with great success.

“Also there is a danger that offenders are escaping punishment on legal technicalities because of the way these groups have operated.”

Last year, the unit’s officers identified and protected 43 vulnerable youngsters − either victims or those at direct risk of harm − through intervention and enforcement activity.

It is estimated they had also safeguarded a further 4,000 children during the same 12-month period that suspects had access to either through school, sports clubs, family members or direct social media contact.

The unit’s capacity was increased last year following a national £20-million investment in ROCUs and means officers can now focus full-time on tackling child sex offenders operating online.

And new offences of grooming children online and getting sexual gratification by talking to children online means there is more scope for them to secure convictions against online predators.

Mr Wills continued: “These an important offences as they recognise youngsters can be badly scarred by the experiences psychologically and emotionally − through online exchanges with these offenders − even if they have not been physically harmed.

“This crime type has a devastating effect on the lives of victims and a child’s safety is at the forefront of all operational and investigative activity.

“We want to create an environment of disruption, fear and apprehension among people who operate online to sexually abuse children.”

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