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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.In fact, she was John Taylor, a middle-aged detective and a Covert Internet Investigator (CII) with the Paedophile Unit.To catch the new breed of paedophile, you see, has required a new form of policing and Scotland Yard's Paedophile Unit has led the world with its pro-active approach.It's very real, it's very nasty indeed and the connection between those internet chats and images of paedophilia are all too common.I've spent the past 18 months shadowing the officers of Scotland Yard's Paedophile Unit and, despite being a former detective with more than 12 years of experience in child protection, I've been horrified by what I've seen.
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.Somewhere out there, as you read this, a man sits hunched over his computer, his brow furrowed in concentration as he taps away at his keyboard.But he's not booking cinema tickets or tracing his family tree or doing any of the things that have made the internet such a valuable tool of modern life.Chillingly, it seems paedophiles and offenders really do now come from all walks of life.Take Andrew Lintern, for instance, one of the men I saw being arrested, who had travelled to London from Hertfordshire in the hope of having sex with a 13-year-old girl.