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The team members behind Op Bail, an investigation into mass online child abuse, have received Chief’s Constable Congratulations.
The five investigators were among the latest recipients at a virtual Chief Constable Awards ceremony hosted via Teams by Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney and the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Nigel Atkinson.
Detective Inspector Simon Baker, DS Tim Plummer, DS Wendy Harrison, DC Steve Lanham and PSI Paul Paxford were all cited for Op Bail, an investigation by the Internet Child Abuse Team (ICAT).
It involved a man who contacted numerous young boys through social media, posing as a teenage girl. He then took videos and images and used them to blackmail the victims into sending more, before distributing them to friends and family of the victims, causing them significant anxiety, embarrassment and shame.
There 401 victims; boys ranging from age eight to 18.
The offender pleaded guilty to 43 offences relating to dates between June 7, 2016 and July 24, 2018 and further admitted 116 offences to be taken into consideration.
He appeared at Winchester Crown Court in June 2020 where he was sentenced to an extended sentence of 11 years, comprising a custodial term of 6 years and an extension period of 5 years.
This investigation required a significant amount of work to be undertaken by the entire team. Not only was this due to the number of victims targeted, who needed to be visited, assessed and supported, there was a considerable amount of work to be done to identify who all of these victims were.
The citation states: “Clearly this was a very distressing and emotive case for the victims and families involved, which required skills of good communication, empathy and knowledge of relevant support to engage them as witnesses for court.
“It is down to the professionalism and dedication particularly by these officers and staff that the true extent of the suspect behaviour has been revealed, and the evidence gathering and presenting within the file enabled CPS to make their decision to charge, and has ultimately resulted in an early guilty plea by the suspect.”