Some are in regular contact with children. Eighty men suspected of child abuse – including an elected official, two school teachers and a supervisor – were arrested this week in France, in a vast sweep showing that this scourge affects all social categories.

The arrests took place in 53 departments, including two overseas, said Commissioner Quentin Bevan, head of the operational unit of the new Office for Minors (Ofmin) of the judicial police, which coordinated the operation.

Among the defendants, aged between thirty and over sixty years old, "they range from local elected officials to the unemployed, including engineers," the commissioner said. "In paedophilia, there is no typical profile, we find all socio-professional categories".

"Stolen photos and videos"

For this vast operation, of a scale "never seen" in France according to the commissioner, the police targeted profiles being in regular contact with children.

Two school teachers, sports coaches, and a supervisor in a home for children with disabilities were arrested.

One of the teachers had "stolen photos and videos of his students with sexual connotations. He had sexualized these images," says Quentin Bevan. The teacher is also accused of sexually assaulting at least one of his students, he added.

Like him, a "dozen" of those arrested are also suspected of rape of minors or sexual assault.

" READ ALSOThe measures to combat child crime in France deemed "insufficient"

"These photos are not virtual"

The guard had been convicted of rape "decades ago". He had legally benefited from a change of identity, which explains why he was able to work again in contact with children, adds Quentin Bevan.

"It shows that online child abuse is not just solitary activities on the internet," some "have already committed or are at risk of doing so" in real life, the police officer continued.

"These photos are not virtual, there are thousands of victims, vulnerable beings, who have been raped, and many of them have suffered acts of torture and barbarism," Martine Brousse, co-founder and president of the association La Voix de l'enfant, told BFMTV.

"We hope that the justice system and the Ministry of the Interior will do everything possible to find these children (...) and that a trial be held so that they can be recognized as victims," she added, assuring that the association would file a civil suit.

The Secretary of State for Children, Charlotte Caubel, said she was "sure that there are hundreds of people who are connected at this very moment on paedophile websites". "Many adults who are sometimes also parents and who are around us, regularly watch and consume child abuse images," she added on BFM-TV.

💬 "Don't put your children's images online"

➡ Charlotte Caubel, Secretary of State for Children, warns parents about the reuse of their children's images on child pornography networks

— BFMTV (@BFMTV) December 9, 2023

She called on parents to be vigilant: "Be careful, do not put your children's images online in such a massive way" because these images can be misappropriated by paedophiles, by means of montages.

Over 100,000 images

At the homes of several defendants, "more than 100,000" videos and photos of child criminals were found during the searches. The images were stored in computers, hard drives or other digital media.

Some of the content was "extremely violent", the commissioner said, citing "sexual acts committed on infants, or children sexually abused with animals". "We are in the 'filth of the filth'," the commissioner adds.

All the defendants admitted the facts while in police custody, although some tried to minimize or exonerate themselves.

When the police and gendarmes arrived, some of the arrested were found downloading child abuse content. Others tried to smash their computers "with hammers".

At the end of police custody for "possession, consultation, dissemination and sharing of paedocriminal images", 51 men were brought before a judge. Of these, 13 were imprisoned. Some were sentenced to prison in immediate court, while others were remanded in custody pending trial.

At this stage, 38 others have been placed under judicial supervision. Other police custody orders have been lifted, pending the use of digital media.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin hailed on X a "major crackdown on paedophilia". "Investigations are still ongoing," he added.

With AFP

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