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Gardaí target distribution of Child Exploitation Material as part of ‘Operation Ketch’

The Operation took place from 2nd February 2018 to the 5th February 2018 and was led by the Online Child Exploitation Unit (ONCE) at the Garda National Protection Services Bureau.   During this phase of the investigation searches were carried out under warrant pursuant to the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998 across a number of Garda Divisions. The searches were carried out by newly established Divisional Protection Service Units and local Detective Units.


A total of 31 locations were searched and digital material which included thousands of images were seized for forensic examination. Child Protection concerns at all the locations searched have been addressed.   Assistance was received by the Online Child Exploitation Unit from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and National Centre for Missing and Exploitated Children (NCMEC) in the USA, and the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre (NCECC) in Canada in the targeting of these suspects.   The objective of this operation is to:
•             To identify Child Protection concerns at each address and engage with Tusla.

•             To identify, target and search persons suspected of distributing online Child Exploitation Material (Child Pornography).

•             To send out a message to other persons who are Distributing this material that An Garda Síochána will actively identify and pursue them.  

The timing of the operation coincides with Safer Internet Day which is scheduled tomorrow, the 6th February 2018, during which An Garda Síochána will, in conjunction with Webwise, be launching the ‘Be In Ctrl’ Secondary Schools Programme which aims to inform students of Online Exploitation, raise awareness of safe online behaviour and empower young people to seek help and report incidents to the Gardaí.   Speaking earlier Detective Superintendent Declan Daly (Garda National Protective Services Bureau)  reminded parents and guardians to maintain good communications with their children surrounding online activity. Superintendent Daly said ‘Children should be warned to immediately inform parents or guardians of any suspicious online approaches. If images have been sent or a request for images has been received; don’t send (further) images, don’t delete anything, preserve the communication and call the Gardaí’.
Detective Sergeant Mary McCormack from ONCE (Online Child Sexual Exploitation) Unit with advice for parents and teenagers of what to be aware of online, warning signs to look out for and what to do if you believe you’re a victim of online sexual exploitation - video advice available here