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operation ketch

Addresses in 11 counties searched as part of investigation into child sexual abuse images

Twenty-three searches have been carried out by gardaí in recent days.

TWENTY-THREE ADDRESSES in 11 counties have been searched by gardaí investigating the possession and distribution of images of child sexual abuse.

The searches were carried out as part of Operation Ketch 5 – the latest phase of an ongoing search and recovery operation targeting suspects involved in the possession and distribution of such material through social networking sites or via file sharing networks.

The Online Child Exploitation Unit at the Garda National Protection Services Bureau is leading the operation.

This phase of the operation took place between 1 and 4 February and involved searches under warrants issued pursuant to the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998.

Gardaí are working with Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, in relation to any child protection concerns that arise.

The 23 searches were conducted by the Online Child Exploitation Unit and the newly established Divisional Protection Service Units as well as local Detective Units.

Searches have been carried out in 11 counties in the following locations:

  • Dublin: six
  • Cork: six
  • Monaghan: two
  • Donegal: two
  • Clare: one
  • Carlow: one
  • Cavan: one
  • Meath: one
  • Louth: one
  • Limerick: one
  • Kerry: one

Digital material was seized for forensic examination at all addresses searched. Follow-up searches are anticipated to be carried out in the next few days.

The timing of the operation was planned to coincide with Safer Internet Day 2019, which is happening today.

Operation Ketch is a search and evidence-recovery operation. Arrests are expected as individual investigations progress.

Sex dolls 

In February 2018, a total of 38 addresses were searched as part of Operation Ketch 1. Two of the suspects identified in that operation were juveniles who have been referred to the Juvenile Diversion Programme.

In July 2018, a further 38 addresses were searched as a result of Operation Ketch 2. Child sex dolls were seized during the course of these searches at one address.

Operation Ketch 3 took place from 27 to 30 September 2018, culminating in 34 searches – during the course of these searches a business selling child sex dolls online was searched and an arrest made. A file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions regarding this case.

Operation Ketch 4 took place in December 2018, with a total of 27 addresses searched. During the course of these searches cocaine and cannabis valued at €7,000 was recovered at one address.

In total, 137 addresses were searched during the course of 2018 under Operation Ketch.

‘Be in Ctrl’ 

An Garda Síochána, in conjunction with Webwise, is promoting the ‘Be in Ctrl’ Schools Programme which aims to inform students of the risk of online exploitation, raise awareness regarding safe online behaviour and empower young people to seek help and report incidents to the gardaí.

The resource pack deals with online coercion and extortion of children which is a form of digital blackmail, sometimes referred to as ‘sextortion’, where sexual information or images are used to extort sexual material, sexual favours and/or money from children.

Included in the resource pack are videos about what to do if a child is exploited online either by a criminal organisation for money or by an individual online sexual offender seeking further sexual material. The pack includes advice as to how such crimes may be reported to gardaí. 

PDST Technology in Education / Vimeo

The Garda Online Child Exploitation Unit offers the following advice:

  • Protect your online life – use the maximum privacy settings
  • Be aware that people online may not be who they claim to be
  • Keep control online – do not share explicit or intimate images with anyone

If you believe you are a victim of this type of extortion or exploitation, you should do the following:

  • Don’t share more, don’t pay anything
  • Look for help, you are not alone
  • Preserve evidence, don’t delete anything
  • Stop the communication, block the person
  • Report it to An Garda Síochána – in person, over the phone, in the event of an emergency via 999/112 , or through the Garda Child Sexual Abuse Reporting Line on 1800 555 222

In a statement, a spokesperson said An Garda Síochána, through operations and awareness campaigns as well as ongoing work by the Online Child Exploitation Unit, “will relentlessly pursue those involved in the sexual exploitation of children, including those who possess, import and distribute child abuse material”.

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