WA Police target paedophiles surfing for 'vulnerable prey'

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Western Australian Police will be keeping an eye on chatrooms, in a bid to catch paedophiles who are using the internet to "groom" young victims.

The move would be made possible by new police powers given through planned amendments to WA's Criminal Code. The state's Premier, Geoff Gallop, had said that the amendments to the Code would make it an offence "to surf the internet searching for vulnerable prey".

Officers in a special WA Police On Line Covert Unit will pose as children on the internet and in chatrooms to try to intercept paedophiles before they "ensnared a child".

Superintendent Alan McCagh, from the Major Crime Division at WA Police, said the changes to the legislation would allow the police to investigate grooming activities and crimes committed on the internet, particularly in chatrooms.

"[It will] allow us to identify those paedophiles who are targeting young children using the internet as a medium of communication," McCagh said.

He said there was an increasing trend where paedophiles used chatrooms as an opportunity to groom young people for the purpose of engaging in child sex abuse crimes.

"The officers will be trained covert operatives, who have sufficient training to establish a cover story and pose as a vulnerable person on the internet," McCagh said.

WA Premier Geoff Gallop commented on the proposed changes to the Criminal Code when he launched WA's Children First policy yesterday, saying that legislation had failed to keep up with technology and the law had to be brought up-to-date in order to protect children.

"The internet is increasingly being used by paedophiles to form relationships with children, find out personal details about them and groom them for a meeting," Gallop said.

"These predators will often pose as a young girl or boy in these online chat rooms to select a vulnerable child and forge friendships with their intended victim," he said.

"The revised Criminal Code would not only make it illegal for paedophiles to surf the internet looking for children, but would empower police to go online posing as young children to gather evidence against child sex offenders by developing a rapport with them," according to Gallop.

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