Following claims from England's Deputy Children's Commissioner that sexual abuse is taking place "all over the country" [full story here], police forces have made a series of raids on suspected paedophiles this week.
Forty-five Forces and over 600 officers took part in the nationwide raids, co-ordinated by the Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre and the Serious & Organised Crime Agency, which led to 100 arrests and the discovery of 24 at risk children.
The deputy chief executive of CEOP, Andy Barker, has suggested there are as many as 50,000 people in the UK viewing and sharing images of child sexual abuse and says this week's raids are just the start of a larger CEOP crackdown.
Arrests took place in Scotland, Northern Ireland and across England following raids on 155 homes containing 92 children with most of the arrests related to image offences, including the possession and distribution of indecent pictures of children.
Raids were timed to coincide with the publication of CEOP's annual report, which calls for tougher action against those who view child sex abuse images and stated: "Between 77% and 87% of convicted child sexual offenders used IIOC [indecent images of children] to stimulate themselves, to lower the inhibitions of their child victim or to teach the child to replicate the activity in real-life sexual situations.
"It can be inferred from this that the offender's exposure to [IIOC] can act as an instigator for future sexual abuse; suggesting that the viewing of [the images] has the potential to increase the risk of offenders committing contact abuse against a child."
Almost 100 case studies from 34 forces found that offenders who both possessed child abuse images and attacked children were "almost exclusively white males", most aged between 19 and 45, with half living with children.
Kate Fisher, an analyst at CEOP, is concerned that use of IIOCs is becoming more extreme and more widespread. "The images being downloaded are increasingly becoming more extreme, sadistic and violent, and feature increasingly younger children," she said.