- How detectives let child porn suspects off hook: They sat on list of 2,300 paedophiles for 14 months – but did nothing Investigators at National Crime Agency sat on the names of 2,345 suspects
- By the time police forces got involved, little action could be taken
- The list of names was provided by Canadian police in July 2012
- Came after they smashed online store that specialised in indecent images
- But NCA apparently left the file gathering dust until November 2013
Senior investigators at the National Crime Agency, pictured, sat on the names of 2,345 suspects for at least 14 months, it has emerged
Hundreds of paedophiles will escape justice because Britain’s crime agency failed to act on a cache of information.
Senior investigators at the National Crime Agency (NCA) sat on the names of 2,345 suspects for at least 14 months, it emerged last night.
By the time local police forces got involved, little action could be taken because of the time that had passed, and some of the suspects had even died.
The list of names was provided by Canadian police in July 2012 after they smashed a notorious online store that specialised in indecent images of naked children. Officers in Toronto identified thousands of potential paedophiles and passed the names to forces worldwide via Interpol.
But the NCA apparently left the file gathering dust until November 2013, when it passed it on to police forces. Even then some forces failed to act for months.
Many cases have now had to be abandoned because the information was simply out of date.
Bedfordshire Police said the ‘age of the intelligence and the timescale difference’ meant that in three cases magistrates refused to grant search warrants.
Hertfordshire Police said no action was taken against five suspects due to the ‘age of the offence and lack of supporting evidence’.
In West Yorkshire, 60 suspects were identified but none was arrested, even though further investigations were carried out. The force did not explain why. The failings were highlighted this week as it emerged paedophile Martin Goldberg, 46, a deputy head teacher at a boys’ school in Southend, was only visited by Essex Police last month, ten months after the NCA passed on his name from the list and more than two years after the Canadian inquiry, known as Project Spade.
Police and national crime investigators did nothing about a paedophile teacher for 18 months.
John Cowell, 60, from Essex, who had worked at a £26,000-a-year boarding school and as a school bus driver, was on the list of around 2,500 British suspected paedophiles identified by a Canadian inquiry and handed over to the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre in July 2012.
The NCA only sent the names out to police forces in November last year – and Essex police then waited until January to visit Cowell at his home in Thaxted.
Last week, a court finally barred him from working with children in classrooms or on school buses.
Police found 228 indecent images and videos of young boys, aged 10 to 14, at the retired teacher’s home.
But Cowell, who pleaded guilty, walked free from court with a three-year community order.
He is the only one of 35 suspected Essex paedophiles identified by Canadian police to be convicted. Most remain under investigation.
Cancer specialist Myles Bradbury, who was found guilty of child sex offences last month, was not arrested for 16 months after his name was given to the NCA.
The revelations came as children’s charity the NSPCC said police are struggling to cope with the mountain of child abuse images they have to deal with.
Experts said they are ‘gravely concerned’ that some police forces do not have enough resources to investigate online abuse.
Doubts were also raised about the NCA. Critics said the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, the unit of the NCA that received the Canadian intelligence in 2012 and which was absorbed into the NCA when it took over in 2013, is also struggling to keep up with the flood of child abuse cases.
The failings are a huge embarrassment for the fledgling NCA, created by the Government as Britain’s answer to the FBI.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission said it is now assessing whether to launch a full inquiry – which would be the first the NCA has faced.
John Carr, a child safety expert and Home Office adviser, said police must act on sensitive intelligence when it is ‘fresh’.
He said: ‘The whole reason for the existence of CEOP and the NCA is to handle and pass on information like this to local forces to act on.
‘I can only imagine it is the sheer volume of reports that is behind this, there cannot be any other reason as this is what they are there to do.
‘This information needs to be fresh and police need to take action as soon as they possibly can to catch offenders and safeguard children.’
A spokesman said one line of investigation is why the NCA did not refer the case to the watchdog in November 2013 when it first realised the CEOP unit had failed to pass on the list of names to police forces.
The NCA declined to comment on the latest revelations and instead referred to a statement that it had posted on its website three weeks ago.
Deputy Director Phil Gormley has ordered a review of how the material was handled by CEOP before the NCA took full control in October 2013.