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Operation Cathedral was a police operation that broke up an international child pornography ring called The Wonderland Club operating over the Internet. It was led by the British National Crime Squad in cooperation with 13 other police forces around the globe,[1] who arrested 107 suspects across 12 countries on September 1, 1998. Seven UK-based men were convicted for their part in the ring in 2001.[2]

One reason for the high profile of the operation was the unusually high number of images involved possessed and produced and distributed by Wonderland Club: 750,000 images with 1,200 unique identifiable faces. Despite substantial work by many of the agencies involved only a very small number of those appearing in the images have been identified.

The investigation had been sparked by a tip-off from United States police investigating the rape of an eight year old girl broadcast live to pedophiles by webcam.[1] The international and highly organized nature of the ring has led to a much higher concern for the child sexual abuse that is child pornography.

Risks to relatives

Due to the lack of a proper legal framework, what has now become computer law, judges and lawyers in a few countries were unsure on how to interpret facts related to computers and the Internet. Because of the publicity the operation received, full names and addresses were almost always divulged to the media thus exposing direct relatives (wives and children) to potential danger from vigilante types among the general public. In Belgium in particular, the Police Judiciare had come under heavy criticism for the handling of the Dutroux case in '95. The efforts to restore a more positive image and the moral aspect behind the operation led officers to hold a certain disregard for relatives and even consider them as potential accomplices.


External links

The bust

The follow up

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