A SCOUT leader, a retired teacher and members of the armed services were among the 76 people arrested in raids as part of an operation targeting suspected internet paedophiles.
Officers from more than 40 police forces executed more than 141 search warrants in the 48-hour operation led by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop).
Some 80 children were “safeguarded” following the raids.
Most of the warrants related to image offences, including the possession and distribution of indecent images of children.
Among those arrested were a referee, a pathologist, Government employees, a firefighter, an outdoor activities instructor and a computer programmer.
Known offenders who had breached the conditions of the Sex Offenders’ Register were also arrested.
Ceop today published a report warning that anyone caught downloading child abuse images online poses a risk of committing physical sex attacks on children.
The report said that one analysis showed 55% who possess indecent images also commit sexual offences against children.
Kate Fisher, a principal analyst at Ceop, said: “The images being downloaded are increasingly becoming more extreme, sadistic and violent and feature increasingly younger children.”
However, the severity and number of images held by offenders are not enough alone to assess the risk they pose or the sentence they should receive, the report said.
Ceop urged police forces to prioritise the investigation of anyone caught with child abuse images who has easy access to children.
Andy Baker, deputy chief executive at Ceop, said: “It is clear that those who possess indecent images also pose a significant risk to children and understanding and managing that risk is not an easy undertaking.”
Ms Fisher said the dramatic increase in images being downloaded, and the cuts to police resources, meant officers struggled with the workload – but stressed the identification of a victim should be at the forefront of investigations.
She added: “The levels of austerity and the caseload of indecent images of children is unprecedented. A quick and timely investigation for each case is increasingly unrealistic. Victim identification is the key.”