Philippine live-streaming child abuse ring exposed by police
Children offered up for abuse by their own relatives as British paedophiles pay to watch over the web
POLICE have broken up a paedophile ring that live-streamed child abuse from the Philippines to paying customers across the world.
The UK's National Crime Agency said 17 Britons were among those arrested as part of Operation Endeavour, which spanned 14 countries, including Australia and the United States.
In some instances, the victims were said to be prostituted by their own parents or relatives, who were desperate for money.
The investigation uncovered payments totalling more than £37,500 made by "customers". Three other similar inquiries are under way, with 139 Britons among 733 suspects.
The NCA, which worked with US and Australian authorities on the operation, described the cybersex industry as an "emerging threat", particularly in developing countries.
"Extreme poverty, the increasing availability of high-speed internet and the existence of a vast and comparatively wealthy overseas customer base has led to organised crime groups exploiting children for financial gain," said the crime agency.
Authorities rescued 15 children aged six to 15 who were identified as victims, but charities working in the Philippines told the BBC that tens of thousands of children are likely to be victims of the trade.
Five of the 17 UK suspects arrested have been convicted, one will face no further action and two are dead. Nine more are still being investigated. The operation has also resulted in 29 arrests in other countries, including 11 people in the Philippines.
The investigation began in 2012 after Northamptonshire Police carried out a routine visit at the Kettering home of a registered sex offender, Timothy Ford. He was sentenced last year to eight-and-a-half years in prison after police found a number of indecent videos on computers and a collection of DVDs recorded from webcams in his home.
Another British man to be convicted was Thomas Owen from Merseyside, who was jailed for seven years last July. He was in possession of nearly four million indecent images of children when he was arrested.