Gardaí analysing electronic devices seized in case of suspected paedophile ring in midwest
The analysis of electronic devices - including phones, digital cameras, tablets and computers - is set to play a critical part in the investigation into a suspected paedophile ring in the mid-west.
Garda technical experts, with the support of the Garda Computer Crime Unit, are now analysing a series of electronic devices seized as part of their investigation.
The devices were taken from the homes of several of those arrested as part of the escalating probe into the abuse and sexual exploitation of children in the region. A number of the devices seized had their memory cards installed and intact.
One Garda source said that it was expected further arrests would be made in respect of the rapidly escalating inquiry.
One source warned that the scale of the suspected abuse was so great it was tantamount to "torture".
Ireland's child protection agency, Tusla, and gardaí are now being supported by UK child protection experts after the potential scale of the investigation became clear.
Eleven people, five men and six women, were arrested by gardaí but subsequently released without charge. All were questioned about the alleged abuse and sexual exploitation of children. A file is now being prepared in relation to the Garda investigation for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Multiple further arrests are anticipated on foot of evidence obtained both from the children at the centre of the inquiry and from ongoing technical investigations.
The investigation was deemed to be so serious that both Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and Children's Minister Katherine Zappone have been personally briefed.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the matter was "deeply shocking".
He has mooted a possible inquiry to determine that every measure was taken at the earliest possible opportunity to ensure the safety of the children involved.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insisted his information was that all State agencies acted in accordance with procedures and protocols.
"I have been briefed on this issue by Minister Zappone," he said. "She is keeping me in touch with the facts of the case and, at this stage, what we do not want to do is anything to jeopardise or that will compromise the privacy of those children," he said.
The district court judge involved has warned the media that strict reporting restrictions are in place over the matter and any breach of the court orders involved would result in serious consequences.
The judge issued the warning after an application from Tusla for clarity from the court in respect of previous orders made in respect of publicity over the ongoing case.
Orders under Sections 28, 18 and 17 of the Childcare Act, 1991 are now in place.