Public schools raided in child porn inquiry (22.11.97)

The Independent, 22nd November 1997

by Jason Bennetto
Police have raided a suspected national child pornography ring, which could include several teachers. Two public schools were among the 15 targets raided by police yesterday as part of a co-ordinated operation involving eight forces.

 Videos, computer equipment and letters have been confiscated, and were being checked yesterday to discover whether they contained child pornography.

 Three teachers are believed to be involved in the inquiry after a three- year investigation.

 The raids in Operation Clarence took place yesterday at 7am. They include one at Durham School and another at the home of a member of staff from the private school. It is understood that videos from the home and school were taken away by the police. There were no arrests.

 Sedbergh School in Cumbria was also searched, where videos are believed to have been seized. Cumbria Police confirmed that the officers were there as part of the co-ordinated child pornography investigation. No arrests were made. The school includes former England rugby captain Will Carling among former pupils.

 Sedbergh’s headmaster, Christopher Hirst, said in a statement: “I can confirm that the police have requested the school’s co-operation in certain inquiries they are conducting. It is the school’s policy to co-operate fully with the authorities at all times.”

 The operation was organised by the Metropolitan Police paedophilia unit.  Scotland Yard sources denied that there was any link with the raids and the removal earlier this week of videotapes and photographs from the homes and offices of rock star Gary Glitter. The singer was released on bail after being arrested on suspicion of possessing child pornography on his computer.

 In London yesterday, officers raided addresses in Cheam, Islington, Croydon, Harrow, and Albany Street in the West End. Material including videotapes, computer equipment and correspondence were seized. The Internet is increasingly being used as a source of illegal sexual pictures. The Scotland Yard spokesman said: “The raids are part of an intelligence- led operation into a suspected child pornography ring.”

 Videotapes and other material were seized in a raid on an address in Worcester and material was recovered at four private houses in Hampshire.

 Merseyside, Wiltshire and Surrey police each searched one address in their respective areas, but nothing was found.

 Detective Chief Inspector Jim Reynolds, head of the paedophilia unit, said: “This is a major operation that has been going on for about three years.The fact we have not so far made any arrests does not mean that this operation has not been successful.”

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