online abuse
A total of 682 people were arrested on suspicion of accessing indecent images of children onlineGetty

Nearly 700 people accused of being paedophiles have been arrested as part of a nationwide investigation tackling online child abuse images. Around one in seven of those arrested during the past nine months through the coordinated activity by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and 40 police forces worked in "positions of trust" such as education, medical and government roles.

Of the 682 people arrested, 147 have been charged to date and a further 399 children safeguarded by authorities.

There were 104 people arrested who were in positions of trust. These included:

  • Teaching/education: 32
  • Medical/care work: 23
  • Law enforcement, criminal justice, armed forces, government: 15
  • Voluntary only roles: 15
  • Other: 12

A total of 633 premises were also searched during the operation, with 46 of those arrested already registered sex offenders.

National Police Chiefs' Council lead for child protection Chief Constable Simon Bailey said 93% of the people arrested in this operational activity were not previously known to law enforcement in relation to child abuse.

He added: "Today's results demonstrate a new level of intent to stop offenders viewing indecent images and abusing children, and a new sophistication in our tactics. This shows that a focus on targeted, proactive operations coordinated with the NCA works. If we hadn't gone out looking for them as we have done, they would have remained under the radar and the nearly 400 children we've safeguarded since then would still be at risk."

Johnny Gwynne, of the NCA, said: "A lot has happened since Operation Notarise in July 2014 not least that there is now a far broader understanding, beyond just law enforcement, of the scale of online image offending. National strategies now give child sexual exploitation the highest priority, and our investment in capacity and capability reflects that shift.

"The figures we are releasing today are one part of the tangible difference this investment is making. As well as seeking out offenders we have had significant and increasing success in identifying the victims captured in indecent images and ensuring they are protected. In 2014-15 this was 177, the highest ever figure, and in the first six months of this year we have already gone well beyond that, with 187 victims identified. Ultimately all of this is about keeping children safe."