Operation Ketch 5 – Further 23 Searches Across 11 Counties

Operation Ketch 5 is the latest phase of an on-going search and recovery operation targeting suspects involved in the possession and distribution of Child Exploitation Material (Child Pornography) either through Social Network sites or via File Sharing Networks. 

The Online Child Exploitation Unit (OnCE) at the Garda National Protection Services Bureau is leading out the Operation. This phase of the operation took place between 1 and 4 February 2019 and involved searches under warrant issued pursuant to the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 in a number of Garda Division throughout the country. Liaison is being maintained with the Child & Family Agency regarding any child protection concerns that arise.

Warrants to search have been executed at 23 addresses nationwide pursuant to the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998. The searches were conducted by the Online Child Exploitation Unit and the newly established Divisional Protection Service Units and local Detective Units.
Searches have been carried out in 11 counties across the country.  Once again follow up searches are anticipated to be carried out in the next few days.

Counties where searches have taken place; –

Dublin 6
Monaghan 2
Cork 6
Clare 1
Carlow 1
Donegal 2
Cavan 1
Meath 1
Louth 1
Limerick 1
Kerry 1

Digital material has been seized for forensic examination at all addresses searched. Liaison is being maintained with the Child & Family Agency regarding any child protection concerns that arise.

The objectives of this operation are to:
• Identify Child Protection concerns at each address and engage with the Child & Family Agency.
• Target persons suspected of possessing, importing and distributing online Child Abuse Material (Child Pornography). 

The timing of the operation is to coincide with Safer Internet Day 2019, during which An Garda Síochána will, in conjunction with Webwise, be 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 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 is a 10-minute video, portraying two teenagers, a boy and girl, being exploited online either by a criminal organisation for money or by an individual online sexual offender seeking further sexual material.

The video, includes advice as to how such crimes may be reported to An Garda Síochána. The 3 minute video, #BeInCtrl, which will be shared across social media was created to complement the ‘Be in Ctrl’ teaching resource. The purpose of the video, depicting the stories of two teenagers subjected to online sexual coercion and extortion, is to advise young people of such criminal behaviour, to raise awareness as to how young people may protect themselves online and to advise where they may find help and support. The ultimate aim of the programme is to help young people stay ‘in Ctrl’ of their online lives.

The Online Child Exploitation Unit (OnCE) at the Garda National Protective Services Bureau (GNPSB) 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 crime, you should do the following:
1. Don’t share more, don’t pay anything.
2. Look for help. You are not alone.
3. Preserve evidence. Don’t delete anything.
4. Stop the communication. Block the person.
5. Report it to An Garda Síochána.

To contact An Garda Síochána:
• Call in person to, or telephone, your local Garda Station;
• In the event of an emergency dial 999/112 or 
• Contact the Garda Child Sexual Abuse Reporting Line at 1800 555 222.

Preserve the evidence/device, do not delete anything. Crimes of this nature that are reported to the Garda Síochána, will be fully investigated.

An Garda Síochána wishes to reassure the community, through operations and awareness campaigns such as these and other ongoing work by the Online Child Exploitation Unit, that we 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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Written by Jasmine Woolley