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The Police

Detective Chief Inspector Jim Reynolds, a jovial, grey-haired Scot, is head of Scotland Yard?s Paedophilia Unit.

The dull, labyrinthine corridors mask the intensive work that goes on here; intelligence gathering against organised paedophile gangs, sometimes involving undercover officers, and the painstaking sifting through evidence, usually in the form of hundreds of videos.

The Paedophilia Unit was created in 1994 and its dual role is to detect and prosecute the possession and distribution of child pornography.

It was set up in response to the growing number of child pornography cases which the then Obscene Publications Unit was tackling. ?First four, then six, then eight and finally by 1993 everyone bar two officers was investigating child pornography, such was the increase in possession and distribution of such material,? says Reynolds.

So who or what does he tackle? ?At worst, it?s serious sexual assaults on children; rapes, buggeries and again a lot of people don?t seem to realise the implications of our work. We?re talking about small children...not teenagers near the age of consent.

?This is serious and organised crime? ? DCI JIM REYNOLDS

We?re talking about small children. Many of the victims we find are two, three, four year olds. We?ve had cases involving babies.

?It?s important to underline the seriousness of the crimes we?re investigating. The people that feature in child pornography - if we arrest these people, they?re liable to go to prison for life. This is serious and organised crime,? says Reynolds.

And the Paedophilia Unit is indeed part of the Metropolitan Police?s Organised Crime Group. The work is intelligence-led, often leading to investigations throughout the country and even abroad. Much of the evidence seized comes in the form of videos. ?When we go and search premises, we often find dozens and sometimes hundreds of videos.

?The dedicated paedophile will have spliced in a home-made abuse clip, to try and escape detection, so it?s important for us to look at videos from start to finish. So we have to go through it frame-by-frame.?

However, Reynolds is keen to point out that it?s not an offence to be a paedophile: ?Everyone says why don?t you just go and arrest them - well, it?s not an offence.

?If you say ?I am a paedophile? I can?t arrest you. But I can if you carry out that preference. Of course, that extends to possessing child pornography. Looking at images is not the be all and end all of what we do, but it?s all part of it.?

?We?re looking at the ones who aren?t convicted. The easy bit is if someone?s got a conviction and is known to police. But we don?t have that luxury. We have to deal with people who are so-called professionals in society, respectable people, which makes the job all the more difficult. I mean, we?re not dealing with dirty old men outside a school with a bag of sweets, saying ?come here little girl?. We?re dealing with people who make a lifetime?s study of getting themselves a cloak of respectability.?

?Many of the people we?ve arrested and charged in recent years have been school teachers, music teachers, priests, doctors, those sort of people. The vast majority are nice, hard working people who are trying to give something to society. But the reality is a lot of them are paedophiles.?

?We're dealing with people who make a lifetime's study of getting themselves a cloak of respectability? ? DCI JIM REYNOLDS

?Paedophiles are devious, cunning, intelligent people, make no mistake about it. They?re not people who just on the spur of the moment have a rush of blood to the head. There?s no way we?re talking about that. We?re talking about serious sexual offenders; they?re cunning, they?re professional and they?re very, very calculated.? The difficulty is getting the evidence.

His unit does get involved with children, when and if they find the victims. ?Our two priorities are to detect and arrest offenders and to detect and help the child victims. When we look at a video, for example, we?re looking at the scene of a crime.

?The difference is we don?t know where the scene of the crime actually is, and one of our functions is to find that out.?

The Unit has also created a computer section, to deal with possession and distribution of child porn on computer hardware and via the internet. Reynolds is circumspect about technological advance. ?With every technological innovation there?s a downside and sadly in this job we see the downside.

Camcorders are wonderful things, but not as far as we?re concerned, because it means paedophiles can abuse children on film, and not have to get it processed. They?ve got it there and then. With every plus in technology there?s a minus, and we?ll get to see the minus.?

As such, his unit has also warned Internet Service Providers to monitor content being place on their systems.

?The easy bit is if someone sexually assaults a child and an arrest is made, then you have one offence, one clear up.

?But a lot of paedophile activity is possession and distribution and you don?t know how many paedophiles are out there. There?s an awful lot of them, because we investigate groups of paedophiles. We know they communicate with each other, correspond with each other, because they?re like-minded people. So it?s a difficult question to answer.

?In a lot of the cases we deal with, we never get to the full number of victims. The paedophile offenders we?re looking at here are repeat offenders. They don?t just abuse one child and walk off, they target children - maybe through a single parent mum, at her wits end and along comes this nice man who chats her up and she thinks she is the object of attraction, but of course she?s not, it?s the children. And he gets the confidence and trust of the children and abuses them. He?ll be doing this simultaneously.

?He might also be a school teacher, in which case he?s got a captive audience. Of course they don?t abuse one child and leave it at that, they go through a class or groups of children.

?One of our problems is that not all the children will complain or will want to talk about it. That?s the big worry dealing with this type of paedophile offenders, the fact that they can abuse 30, 40, 50 children over a period of years.

?There?s also a school of thought to which I adhere that children who are abused become abusers in adult life, which makes the crimes all the more serious, doesn?t it? Or at least a percentage of them. ?The vast majority of offenders we deal with were abused themselves. That makes the type of people doing it all the more sinister and all the more important we get to them.

Despite a clinical, professional detachment necessary for his job, Reynolds admits he is affected by his work: ?They?re very cold blooded about it all. They?re committing dreadful crimes, if you think of the mechanics of it. I mean, how do you explain this to the public??

These articles were originally published in MSN NEWS

Other stories in this series:

Sex abuse: the survivor

The lasting nightmare of child abuse. Peter Saunders tells how the scars last for a lifetime.

Sex abuse: the probation officer

How to shatter the sex offending cycle. Donald Finlater helps sex offenders survive back in the community.

Sex abuse: the police

Inside Scotland Yard?s Paedophilia Unit. We?re dealing with very serious crimes warns DCI Reynolds.

Sex abuse: the mother

Whirlwind romance led to horror of child abuse. He was everything my first husband wasn?t.

Sex abuse: the legal expert

The law is failing the victims of child abuse. Barbara Joel-Essam is trying to change the culture around sex offence.

Sex abuse: the investigator

The man who catches child abusers. Abusing children is the main focus of some people?s lives.

Sex abuse: the expert

?You can buy a child for a packet of crisps?. Grim warning from Britain?s top sex crime consultant.

Sex abuse: the abuser

Abuser who claims six-year-old led him on. Convicted paedophile hasn?t yet taken full responsibility for his crimes.

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