It's not just the appalling nature of the photographic images that so alarms me; it's the number of them.Barely a decade ago, we thought it was bad enough that there were a few thousand of these images being passed around paedophile rings. It's become not just a worldwide problem, but a worldwide business, too, with organised crime gangs increasingly keen to muscle in on the lucrative trade for this truly disgusting material.As one of the detectives told me: 'You've got to get their mobile phones examined, their computers examined, their cameras examined and look at every single image.Multiply that by the number of prisoners and it's a phenomenal amount of work.' It's a meticulous and timeconsuming approach, but it works.Twenty years ago, a predatory paedophile would have had to loiter around parks, funfairs and swimming pools to gain access to children, where his suspicious behaviour - in full public view - would often have raised the alarm before he could cause any real harm.But computers and the internet have brought an end to all that.It's very real, it's very nasty indeed and the connection between those internet chats and images of paedophilia are all too common.
Many will have been raped and, in a few tragic cases, the victim may even have been killed. Despite the horrific nature of these crimes, the problem seems to get worse every year.He was 55, married, highly qualified as a scientist working in IT, professional and, it later emerged, an Oxford graduate.And yet when officers from the Paedophile Unit raided his home, they found nearly 20,000 indecent images, including video-clips of a 17-month-old baby being assaulted.But despite often having no criminal record, they pose every bit as serious a threat to our children as the more readily identifiable 'dirty old men' of the past.'In the past couple of years we've arrested magistrates, lawyers, company directors, police officers, people in the media,' DCI Stevens tells me.