UK & World News
Britons Investigated Over Live Webcam Abuse
Police are investigating 139 Britons suspected of paying to view children being abused live on webcam from the Philippines.
The investigation has been going on for two years into what has been described as a "significant and emerging threat".
Three other investigations are taking place into live streaming of child sex abuse, with the Britons among 733 suspects.
Some 17 British suspects have already been arrested as part of Operation Endeavour, which involves police forces in Australia and the US and spans 12 countries.
Five of these suspects have been convicted, nine investigations are ongoing, one will face no further action and two are deceased.
The National Crime Agency operation began after police analysed the computer of convicted sex offender Timothy Ford, 52, from Kettering.
Detectives discovered Ford had been paying a family in the Philippines to force young boys to perform sex acts in front of a webcam before he shared the videos with other paedophiles over the internet.
The inquiry led to Thomas Owen, 33, from the Wirral, who was discovered to have been paying another Philippine family for their seven-year-old son to be abused for his sexual gratification.
Owen was later jailed for seven years for possessing more than three million indecent images of children and thousands of similar videos - the largest child-abuse collection ever uncovered in the UK.
Andy Baker from the National Crime Agency said: "This investigation has identified some extremely dangerous child sexual offenders who believed paying for children to be abused to order was something they could get away with.
"Being thousands of miles away makes no difference to their guilt. In my mind they are just as responsible for the abuse of these children as the contact abusers overseas.
"Protecting the victims of abuse is our priority and that means attacking every link in the chain, from dismantling the organised groups who are motivated by profit through to targeting their customers."
The National Crime Agency said: "The use of webcams to stream live abuse, particularly from the developing world, is a significant and emerging threat according to our CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) command.
"Extreme poverty, the increasing availability of high-speed internet and the existence of a vast and comparatively wealthy overseas customer base has led to organised crime groups exploiting children for financial gain."
Police have so far rescued 15 children aged six to 15 who have been identified as victims in the videos - in some cases after their relatives sold them for abuse.
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