Garda alarm as child sex dolls uncovered in searches of 31 premises for child porn

Gardaí made their first-ever discovery of a number of child sex dolls during a targeted search of 31 premises for child pornography this week.

The raids, carried out in 15 counties over the last four days, were co-ordinated by the Online Child Exploitation Unit at the Garda National Protection Services Bureau.

As well as hundreds of thousands of child abuse images, a number of sex dolls designed to look like children were recovered during one of the searches.

Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll said the discovery of the child sex dolls is a “particular concern”.

He said it is an issue they had previously discussed with customs officials because they were aware that they were being imported into the State.

It is an added concern to what is already an area that gives rise to considerable concern, to say the least,” said Mr O’Driscoll.

The searches were part of the second phase of Operation Ketch, an operation targeting suspects who possess, import, and distribute child abuse material.

Digital material was seized for forensic examination at all the addresses searched.

There have been no arrests so far but gardaí expect that charges will follow.

During the first phase of Operation Ketch in February, 38 premises were searched in 12 counties. In one case, thousands of hours of child abuse video was seized.

Gardaí said two of the suspects identified in the first phase are juveniles who were referred to the Juvenile Diversion Programme. A third suspect has recently been charged.

Detective Chief Supt Declan Daly said they had nine admissions from the first phase. The officer also confirmed that nine people had made admissions regarding their online activities during the latest operation, which is very significant.

There are numerous files being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions and we will expect arrests to be occurring over the next few weeks,” he said.

Det Supt Daly said most of the children that appear in the imagery are not from Ireland. Gardaí have recently established a victim identity unit to establish where the children are from.

He said the people in possession of child pornography include teenagers and men and women of all ages.

People in all of the 31 premises searched this week, who were all men, would be interviewed.

Gardaí are in liaison with Tusla, the child and family agency, regarding any child protection issues that arise.

“There will be children living in some of the houses and in all those cases we are in Liason with Tusla as we are in all of the cases,” said Det Supt Daly.

There would be child protection concerns because a person in possession of child abuse material would be someone with a sexual interest in children so they would be engaging with Tusla in relation to these matters.

Mr O’Driscoll said some of the searches undertaken resulted from information provided by social media firms.

“Clearly we would like to see more done,” he said. “We would like to see that there would be greater difficulty in accessing material of this nature.

That it would be blocked wherever possible. But we are very satisfied that those companies are engaging in a meaningful way with us in terms of notifying us when they observe suspicious activity and are assisting us in identifying suspects and ensuring that we can engage in operations like this.

Mr O’Driscoll said there will be more targeted searches this year.

“Hopefully, by highlighting this issue we will see a decline in the number of premises that are required to be searched,” he said.

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