12 arrested as 32 homes targeted in child abuse investigation


Gardai have arrested 12 people in connection to an investigation into child abuse.

Some 32 houses were raided across the country by officers targeting people suspected of possessing, importing and distributing online child abuse material.

Officers seized digital material, computers and mobile telephones from searches in 12 counties.

One of the searches targeted an individual suspected of selling and facilitating the online distribution of child sex dolls.

The person was arrested and questioned before being released, while a file is being prepared by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Gardai said they expect to carry out a number of follow-up searches.

Operation Ketch III is the third phase of an intelligence-led operation targeting those who possess, import and distribute child abuse images on the internet.

The operation is liaising with Tusla - the Child and Family Agency and the Online Child Exploitation Unit (OnCE) at the Garda National Protection Services Bureau (GNPSB).

The OnCE carried out searches of properties from Thursday to Monday.

Since February, more than 70 premises have been searched and over 100 suspects have been targeted.

This was the first time child sex dolls had been seized during searches.

Detective Chief Superintendent Declan Daly, who heads the GNPSB, said: "The Garda Siochana wishes to reassure the public, through operations such as Ketch and other ongoing work undertaken by the Online Child Exploitation Unit, at the GNPSB, that they will continue to relentlessly pursue those involved in the possession, importation and distribution of child abuse material and who pose a danger to children within our communities."

Assistant Commissioner John O'Driscoll, who heads Special Crime Operations, said: "The Garda Siochana places great importance on undertaking proactive initiatives that target those who use the internet to exploit children online and who are involved in the downloading of child abuse material.

"Protecting children and vulnerable people within our communities is one of our highest priorities.

"The Garda will achieve this aim through initiatives such as the rollout of divisional protective services units in every Garda Siochana division throughout the country, four of which are currently operational and a further six of which, we intend, will be operational by the end of 2018."