More than 600 suspected paedophiles including doctors, teachers and former police officers have been arrested following a massive, unprecedented investigation involving every police force in the UK and Northern Ireland.
Scout leaders and care workers were also among those arrested in the six-month-long operation coordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA), it has been revealed today.
The operation initially targeted people suspected of accessing indecent images of children online, but a number of those arrested have now been charged with a wide range of offences, including serious sexual assault.
Of the 660 suspects, just 39 were registered sex offenders and the vast majority of those arrested had not been on the radar of UK police before. As a result of the operation around 400 children have now been safeguarded, the NCA claims.
Many of those arrested during the operation had access to children in the course of their work.
Phil Gormley, deputy director general of the NCA said: "This is the first time the UK has had the capability to coordinate a single targeted operation of this nature. Over the past six months we have seen unprecedented levels of cooperation to deliver this result.
"Our aim was to protect children who were victims of or might be at risk of sexual exploitation."
Claire Lilley, Head of Online Safety at the NSPCC, said that this is an "important two-pronged operation which has rescued children from abuse and also indentified many previous unknown sex offenders."
None of those arrested is a serving or former MP or member of the government, say the NCA.