Friday, December 1, 2023

Call For Action Now Web Child Abuse ‘too Big For Police’

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A fresh approach is needed to tackle the “global pandemic” of online child exploitation because police can’t keep up with the growing number of offences, experts claim.

Young girl looking down sadly at her phone in a dark room (Image: Christy McLoughlin/ Getty)

Simon Bailey, ex National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for child protection, below, said despite UK police catching around 1,000 perverts a month, the number of child abuse images is rising exponentially.

With live streaming of child rape and torture available to watch for just £10, Mr Bailey demanded tech companies “put child safety before profit”.

He also called for better protection against online exploitation to be included on the school curriculum.

Mr Bailey said: “We cannot arrest our way out of this problem. We have tried, but the sheer volume of offenders continues to grow.

“Between 2012 and 2013 UK authorities arrested 192 offenders and safeguarded 790 children.

“Today, a decade on, we are catching 1,000 offenders a month and safeguarding 1,200 children.

“But in spite of this, the number of children sharing sexual images of themselves is growing, the age of the victims is getting younger and the level of abuse is becoming more depraved.”

Mr Bailey, chairman of the Policing Institute for the Eastern Region, said during the late 1990s there were fewer than 10,000 child sex abuse images in circulation.

He said: “There are now tens of millions of child sex abuse images in our national database, and there is a global pandemic of online child sex abuse, including live streaming of rape and torture of children which people can buy for as little as £10.”

In some cases, he said, children are bribed into sharing sexual images of themselves.

Mr Bailey, who is also a director of the Child Rescue Coalition, added: “We need a whole approach to tackling this problem, which is not only a crime issue but a public health crisis too. It is one of society’s biggest challenges.”

Simon Bailey (Image: Child Rescue Coalition)

He called for an education programme for children and parents into the risks of online sex abuse which is “reinforced in the curriculum at school.”

He also demanded tech companies invest in stopping images being uploaded to begin with.

“We must ensure big tech lives up to its social and moral responsibility by stopping these images being uploaded,” he said. “They are putting profit first and possibly millions of children have suffered as a result.”

Susie Hargreaves, CEO of the Internet Watch Foundation, said: “Parents may believe their children are safe in their bedrooms, but the reality is very different.

“With a webcam and an internet connection, a dangerous sexual predator may as well be alone in the room with your child.”

She said during the pandemic “the internet was a lifeline for many – but with more children spending longer online than ever before, we see predators taking advantage”.

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