Four Hampshire men arrested in nationwide swoop on paedophile suspects

Cheltenham Road. Picture: Google Maps

Man, 27, arrested after house burglary investigation

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POLICE have seized up to 500,000 indecent images of children during raids in our area as part of a nationwide blitz targeting suspected online paedophiles.

Terry Fleet, from Wilmot Close, Gosport, has been charged with four counts of distribution of an indecent image of a child after being arrested in a dawn raid at his home.

EVIDENCE A police officer bags items at one of the homes raided

EVIDENCE A police officer bags items at one of the homes raided

The 54-year-old denied all four charges when he appeared at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court today.

Fleet was remanded in custody to appear at Portsmouth Crown Court later this month.

Three other suspects – a 55-year-old Petersfield man, a 43-year-old Waterlooville man and a 49-year-old man from Chandlers Ford man from Gosport – were also arrested as part of 141 warrants executed nationwide on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Police have not revealed further details of the remaining three suspects.

However they are not linking the arrests in our area.

Police seized seven computer units, seven laptops, more than 30 memory sticks and other mobile data storage devices as well as dozens of DVDs and videos from the four Hampshire suspects’ homes.

Officers anticipate the equipment will contain up to 500,000 images when analysed.

The 25-strong squad from Hampshire police’s public protection and other specialist departments were led by the paedophile and online investigation team as part of nationwide Operation Tharsley.

The 48-hour crackdown was led co-ordinated by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency (CEOP).

Detective Inspector Victoria Dennis, head of Hampshire police’s paedophile and online investigation team, said: ‘Every image is evidence that a child somewhere in the world is suffering abuse. Sharing these images and encouraging others to abuse children is a crime.

‘This is an international problem and it’s important that local police forces work together with national and international agencies to address it.

‘Hampshire Constabulary is dedicated to protecting the most vulnerable people in our communities and is investing significantly into a modern and well-resourced public protection department.’

More than 141 search warrants were executed by 40 police forces across the UK as part of the 48-hour blitz.

Nationwide 76 suspects were arrested and 80 children were removed from harm.

Police say 20 about were found at raided properties but none were in Hampshire.

CEOP said most of the warrants related to crimes such as downloading and sharing indecent images of children.

Known sex offenders who had breached the conditions of the Sex Offenders’ Register were also arrested.

The suspects were identified as a result of intelligence received by CEOP and local investigations.

The operation coincided with the release of a report by CEOP highlighting the ‘significant risk’ of those who possess indecent images of children going on to abuse children.

Andy Baker, deputy chief executive of the CEOP, said: ‘If offenders think that collecting child abuse images is something they can get away with, they need to think again. ‘