The National Crime Agency has confirmed that it has arrested 660 suspected paedophiles as part of an 'unprecedented six-month operation' involving 45 forces across the UK.
According to the organisation, the operation targeted those accessing indecent images of children online, with some suspects including those with 'unsupervised access to children' such as doctors, teachers and scout leaders.
Speaking of the arrests, NCA Deputy Director General Phil Gormley said: “This is the first time the UK has had the capability to coordinate a single targeted operation of this nature."
He continued: “Some of the people who start by accessing indecent images online go on to abuse children directly. So the operation is not only about catching people who have already offended – it is about influencing potential offenders before they cross that line.
“We want those offenders to know that the internet is not a safe anonymous space for accessing indecent images, that they leave a digital footprint, and that law enforcement will find it”.
ACPO lead Chief Constable Simon Bailey (pictured) said: “Forces are investigating exploitation by groups and gangs, alongside non-recent abuse - including large scale investigations into abuse in institutions over many years -, and sexual abuse by parents and family members.
“Police must continue to use a range of investigative techniques targeting all forms of abuse if we going to protect children and bring offenders to justice."
The majority of those arrested had not been previously known to law enforcement, with only 39 on the sex offenders register. Charges brought so far range from possessing indecent images of children to serious sexual assault.