SKY NEWS:-A major operation by Police Scotland has identified 523 children as potential victims of online sexual abuse.
Operation Lattise, which was carried out between 6 June and 15 July, has recovered as many as 30 million indecent images.
It has involved 134 investigations which has led to raids on the homes of 83 suspects, 77 of whom have been arrested and charged so far.
They offences include rape, sexual extortion, grooming and sharing indecent images of children – some as young as three.
Of the 523 “victims or potential victims” aged between three and 18, 122 have been referred to child protection services.
More than 100,000 chat logs were assessed, as well as the live streaming of sexual abuse, and some 547 devices seized as part of the massive investigation which is still ongoing.
Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham told Sky News: “People should be horrified that this is going on in Scotland.
“This operation is targeting people who are committing these crimes in Scotland, and keeping children safe in Scotland, identifying victims and raising awareness.”
He said Operation Lattise was about “shining a light on the scale of this issue”.
“Online child sexual abuse is a national threat. The reality is it is happening now, not only in Scotland but across the world, to children of all ages, from infants to teenagers,” he said.
“Let me make it clear – child sexual abuse and exploitation, which can range from sharing images depicting the rape, sexual torture or assault of a child to grooming or sexually extorting a child takes place solely because of decisions made on the part of the abuser.
“Online child sexual abuse is not a victimless crime: children, from toddlers to teenagers, are being sexually abused and exploited now in Scotland and when an image or video clip is shared or viewed, they are being re-victimised.”
Joanna Barrett, from the NSPCC, welcomed the crackdown.
She said: “We recently highlighted how the internet is playing an increasing role in the sexual abuse of younger children in Scotland, with a 60% rise recorded over a year in the number of indecent communications offences carried out by adults against children aged under 13.
“It is vital we learn more about the nature and scale of this offending in Scotland and its impact on children and young people.”
Early years minister Mark McDonald said: “Although there are many positive aspects to the online world I recognise, there are also risks we have to be aware of.”