Home Secretary to Outline Mission to Tackle Child Abuse

Bonnie Evie Gifford
By Bonnie Evie Gifford,
updated on Sep 3, 2018

Home Secretary to Outline Mission to Tackle Child Abuse

Sajid Javid expected to reveal that there are at least 80,000 paedophiles online in the UK and that even that estimate is “conservative”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid is expected to reveal an estimated 80,000 people in the UK pose a sexual threat to children online. As part of a flagship speech that will outline Javid’s “personal mission” to tackle child abuse in all of its forms, the Home Secretary is expected to speak of his reaction at discovering the National Crime Agency (NCA) has estimated there are around 80,000 individuals who present a sexual threat to children online. Operational experts have called this figure conservative.

Further new statistics have revealed that referrals of child abuse images to the NCA have risen by 700% between 2012 and 2017. Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) data earlier this year confirmed child sexual abuse URLs are up 27% year on year between 2016 to 2017; content has become more explicit and severe overall, rising from 28% to 33%; and the use of disguised websites has risen dramatically by 86% year on year. Experts fear this implies increased intelligence amongst offenders who may now be going to new lengths to evade detection.

There have been calls for offenders who download indecent images of children to receive tougher sentences, building on the government’s current measures which have included a £600,000 investment project which trawls the internet to identify pages with suspected abuse content.

The increasing scale of offending has prompted fresh demands for internet giants to take more action to stop access to sexual abuse images and videos. This comes just days after Jeremy Hunt criticised Google over their willingness to censor its content in order to break into China, but its refusal to take action against child abuse content. The NCA has previously suggested technology companies’ provision of encryption and increasing anonymity on the internet may be enabling offenders.

The NCA said that more than 130 suspects, including a former police officer and five teachers, were arrested during a recent crackdown on online child sex offenders over the course of a week in July. 13 of those arrested were already registered sex offenders, with a further 19 holding positions of trust. An average of 400 people are arrested in the UK each month for offences connected to child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan spoke ahead of the speech planned in central London, welcoming the Government’s new efforts. He said:

“We welcome Sajid Javid’s commitment to ramp up the Government’s efforts to tackle online child sexual abuse.

“The Government must now deliver its promise to make the UK the safest place to be online by forcing online companies to ensure effective safeguards are in place to help better protect children. Any delay to acting now could put a generation of children in danger online.

“All children with access to the internet are potentially vulnerable to being groomed online and sexually or criminally exploited offline. Feeling safe in their bedrooms, children can make friends quickly with strangers on social media or through gaming sites and don't see the risks they might pose.

“Of the victims of online grooming referred to Barnardo’s specialist support services, we know that nearly two thirds of them, some as young as 10, had also gone on to meet their attacker and were sexually exploited.”

Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) CEO Susie Hargreaves commented on the situation:

“The IWF recognises the evolving threat of child sexual abuse online and the problems highlighted by the Home Secretary, in particular live streaming, encryption and grooming. Last year, with the support of the internet industry and the EU, we removed over 78,000 URLs confirmed as containing child sexual abuse imagery. Each individual URL can contain hundreds, or even thousands of images.

“Sadly, our most recent Annual Report showed that the severity of the images we identified were up and it appeared that offenders were becoming more sophisticated in their crime, using disguised website abuse to an unprecedented level.

“It’s concerning that offenders appear to be increasingly using concealed digital pathways and we need to continue to work globally, in partnership, to fight this disturbing crime. This battle cannot be won in isolation.

“Yet despite these figures, the UK remains one of the most hostile places in the world to host this disturbing material. Over 20 years ago, when IWF launched, 18% of the world’s child sexual abuse imagery was hosted in the UK, today that figure is less than 1%.”

What to do if you are concerned about a child’s safety

If you are worried that a child or young person may be at risk of abuse or sexual exploitation, you can report this and seek help. You can choose to not disclose your details.

You can report your suspicions directly online to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection command (CEOP); call the NSPCC 24/7 helpline on 0808 800 5000 for expert advice and support; or young people and children can call Childline free 24/7 to speak to trained staff on 0800 1111.

For more information on how to stay safe online, as well as how to protect children from online grooming and how you can help if you are concerned about someone’s safety online, visit Counselling Directory.

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