BBC Wales investigation into chatroom 'grooming'

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Police are investigating a number of alleged paedophiles, following a BBC Wales undercover investigation.

Week In Week Out spent months looking at online grooming in teenage chat rooms.

Journalists posed in chat rooms as a 13-year-old, called "Emma", and found dozens of men wanting to have a sexual relationship with her, including three claiming to be teachers.

The programme has passed its findings onto police. One man has been arrested.

A 31-year-old man from north east England did turn out to be a primary school teacher, and has been questioned on suspicion of committing offences on the internet.

He is on police bail until December.

The programme also found serious concerns surrounding the policing of the internet, with claims there are not enough dedicated officers or resources.

Former detective and child protection advisor Mark Williams-Thomas says police forces are not carrying out enough of their own investigations to catch online paedophiles.

"There's very, very limited online pro-active covert investigating officers out there policing the internet through social networking sites, through chat rooms and that's what we need to change," he said.

Freedom of Information requests to all four Welsh police forces, revealed that there are only three officers dedicated to catching paedophiles who groom children online. But all the forces - apart from South Wales - said they do carry out pro-active investigations.

Concerns about policing the internet - for offenders who groom children and also view abuse images - are shared by Malcolm King, a former chairman of North Wales Police Authority and former advisor to the UK's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

Mr King said: "The size of the problem is massive, and the resources we put into it are absolutely about as minimum as they could be. You have thousands upon thousands of paedophiles who are abusing thousands of children every day and getting away with it."

Jeff Farrar, temporary deputy chief constable of Gwent Police, said more money to police the internet would help but was unlikely in the current economic climate.

Image caption,
Malcolm King says the problem is "massive"

"Policing the web is a huge problem. This has to be intelligence-lead. If we are not lead by intelligence, and we just engage in fishing trips, then we will not be using resources to best effect. The one problem with the web is, how far do you dip in and interrogate it?" said Mr Farrar.

Cheryl Roberts, from Pencoed near Bridgend, reported her husband after she caught him trying to lure teenage girls for sex on the internet.

"It was just horrific. I couldn't believe my husband could do something like that," she said.

Mrs Roberts posed as a 14-year-old girl online in her home, and chatted to her husband, David Roberts, who was on the computer in the next room.

Thinking he was talking to a teenage girl, he made various sexual suggestions and even wanted to meet.

Roberts, 69, admitted attempting to engage in a sexual act in the presence of a child, and possessing indecent images of children.

He was sentenced last November to a three-year community order; ordered to attend a sex offenders' programme and placed on the sex offenders' register for five years.

With public money tight, there are also fears that the money available for child protection could be cut.

Week In Week Out: Stranger Danger In Your Home is on Tuesday 19 October, 22.35 BST on BBC1 Wales.

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