Det Ch Supt Roger Bannister said:
“Protecting and safeguarding children has been our main focus throughout this investigation and it is satisfying for those involved to see these really good results.
“It has always been in my mind, and that of the investigation team, that every single face in the millions of child abuse images in this case is someone’s daughter or son. Of course, by virtue of their age and position in society, children are extremely vulnerable to this kind of very serious and illegal activity.
“For me, this investigation was groundbreaking. As a detective of a number of years, I have been involved in many major crime enquiries involving kidnap, rape and murder. As a senior investigating officer, I have also led a number of investigations of that type and magnitude, but Operation Alpine was very different.
“In many respects it was very much more difficult as the force – Lincolnshire Police was not only leading a large-scale international operation, but also handling extremely challenging types of criminality.
“We very carefully and methodically advanced forward, often seeking legal advice, ensuring the basis for arrests and prosecutions was absolutely sound.
“Many of the technical aspects of the case were also very challenging and complex from an investigative perspective.
“I am very grateful to the Lincolnshire Police Authority, which has supported this investigation and shared the force’s commitment to seeing it through to such a positive position.
“I am also grateful to my colleagues in the force, CEOP, the lawyers and counsel working with the Crown Prosecution Service and to the many specialists who advised and worked with us. Investigations of this scale are truly team efforts and we would not be where we are today without the assistance from our partners particularly CEOP. I would also like to take their opportunity to thank the police forces of Derbyshire, Leicestershire Nottinghamshire, and Northamptonshire as they all assisted in the seconding of staff to the investigation.
“Finally, I hope this case sends out a powerful message to people with a sexual interest in children worldwide – the internet is not a place for this kind of activity. We will trace you and you will be brought to justice.”
Peter Davies is the senior police officer heading up the CEOP Centre and the ACPO lead for child abuse investigations. Prior to this he was Assistant Chief Constable for Lincolnshire Police and as such has seen the operation throughout.
He said: "From the outset of this operation, our strategy was to safeguard children found to be at risk - wherever they were, bring offenders to justice, deter people from using the internet to share child abuse images and reassure the public that police forces, national bodies and partner agencies can work together effectively to protect them. Today's convictions mark a critical milestone in fulfilling the strategy to the letter.
“Many of the images being shared online were horrific. The lengths to which people went to try and conceal their criminal activity were huge but did not prevent them being caught by persistent and dedicated work. This not only brought offenders to justice but enabled children at high risk to be safeguarded and protected.
"Offenders out there thinking they can operate online anonymously should look at these results and think again. The officers in Lincolnshire, CEOP and the wider global police community who worked collectively on the massive operation should all feel rightly proud in smashing this network".
Detective Superintendent Paul Gibson
Detective Superintendent Paul Gibson, who ran Operation Alpine on a day to day basis, said: “This has been a massive and complex enquiry, unlike anything seen before in Lincolnshire or in the UK.
“It has offered unique opportunities to bring to justice these individuals who have distributed indecent images of children via news services and also those customers that have accessed them.
“From day one, the priority of this investigation was to protect and safeguard children. The investigative team have excelled at achieving this aim and I know they are extremely proud at having done so much to reduce the risk of horrendous sexual abuse against so many vulnerable children in the UK and throughout the World”.
Lincolnshire County Council Director of Children’s Services Peter Duxbury said:
“This operation has been immensely successful in protecting large numbers of children from immediate harm and will also safeguard many more by making other abusers and potential offenders aware that the Police Service is absolutely determined to tackle this type of crime.
“We will continue to work closely with police colleagues to identify abusers and protect children".
Crown Advocate from the Crown Prosecution Service East Midlands Complex Casework Unit Samantha Shallow said:
“The Crown Prosecution Service’s East Midlands Complex Casework Unit joined the investigation team at an early stage and worked closely with them. This co-operation between the prosecution agencies has resulted in producing a strong case and guilty pleas to the offences. The main aim of the prosecution was to ensure that the victims were protected from unscrupulous people whose only interest was in making money out of their vulnerability.
“Ian Frost, Paul Frost, Paul Rowland and Ian Sambridge profited over a period of years from selling indecent photographs of children to members of the public around the world. The defendants and their customers have perpetuated the exploitation of the children depicted in those photographs for financial gain.”
* Notes to editors
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