IN a prison cell in New South Wales, Australia, a man awaits trial accused of sexual assault of two girls aged just 12 and 14.
It might be the other side of the world, but this man is believed to have flown to Australia to carry out the attacks after grooming the youngsters online from his home in Holbeach St John’s
After his arrest by New South Wales police last March, Lincolnshire Police raided his home on behalf of their Australian counterparts and took away the computer.
On it they discovered a number of indecent images of children and logs of some of the online conversations in which he had groomed his victims.
This is just one of the investigations Lincolnshire Police Paedophile Online Investigation Team has been involved with.
The team is small – just five detectives and one sergeant – but it’s size belies it’s reach – and its successes.
In 2011 the team seized five million indecent images of children – more than three times the number uncovered in 2010.
Each of those images is a picture of a victim and the team is dedicated to tracking down those victims and those who abuse them – wherever the trail leads.
DS Paul Hutchins (pictured), who heads the team, said: “The internet has no boundaries so our work tracking down those who use it to abuse children can’t be bound by county lines.
“Technology is always improving and as it grows so does people’s access to these images and the capacity they have to store them.
“Just a few years ago a large haul of indecent images would have been 60,000 to 70,000, but the last two big ones we have been involved in have been nearer 800,000.
“Academic research shows that 85 per cent of those who enjoy looking at this type of image go on to commit an hands-on offence, so when we arrest those who have images on their computers we are effectively saving a child from abuse.
“We also go to awful lengths to track down the victims in these pictures.
“The case in Australia shows just how far and wide these people operate, so that’s what we have to do.”
But DS Hutchins fears the good results achieved in the short time his team have been working could be unravelled as the squeeze on police budgets becomes ever tighter.
He said: “We are under constant review, like every other team in Lincolnshire Police.
“The force as a whole is getting close to a record low number of officers - last year we lost 70 and there will be more.
“The team has only been at its current level for 12 months and we have had a huge impact.
“To lose just one member of the team would mean we could not safeguard as many children as we do and not bring as many offenders to justice..
“We are racking the cases through the court system but we can only do that with the resources.”