Measures announced to tackle child abuse

Government announces £21.5 million investment in law enforcement to tackle child abuse

Published on 3rd September 2018

The Home Secretary has announced an extra £21.5 million investment in law enforcement over the next 18 months to tackle child abuse.

Revealing that there has been a 700% increase in child abuse images being referred to the National Crime Agency in the last five years, home secretary Sajid Javid said the investment was aimed at reducing the volume of offending and pursue the most hardened and dangerous abusers.

The majority of this funding will go to UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies to tackle the most tech-savvy and dedicated abusers.

Director General Lynne Owens at the NCA said: "There are a significant number of sophisticated offenders including those involved in grooming, streaming of live abuse and transnational sex offending, who are very dangerous. The NCA and the police prioritise these investigations to prosecute offenders and safeguard vulnerable children. However, investigators are facing a constant uphill struggle because of the significant numbers of offenders committing preventable crimes, such as viewing and sharing images and videos that are easily accessible online."

"The technology exists for industry to design-out these offences and to stop this material from being viewed. Some online platforms have taken important steps to improve safety, but we are asking for more. We want industry to invest in preventing these online offences from happening in the first place. It is not just a matter for law enforcement. We need industry to make it harder for anyone to access indecent images on the internet," she added.

The home secretary revealed that up to 80,000 people in the UK present some kind of sexual threat to children online and material increasingly features younger and younger children.

The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse estimates that 15% of girls and 5% of boys experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 16 while NSPCC research shows some children are being groomed online and blackmailed to perform sexual acts in less than 45 minutes from initial contact.

Sajid Javid vowed to lead the cross-government effort in the response to the evolving threat of online CSE, including funding for law enforcement, intelligence agencies and a new prevention drive. He called on the technology industry to work in partnership with each other and with government to stop online child sexual abuse, sharing solutions and best practice to improve the response.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: "I’ve been impressed by the progress the likes of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Apple have made on counter-terrorism.

"Now I want to see the same level of commitment for child sexual exploitation. In recent years there has been some good work in this area. But the reality is that the threat has evolved quicker than industry’s response and industry has not kept up. And there are some companies that refuse to take it seriously.

"I am not just asking for change, I am demanding it. And the people are demanding it too. And if web giants do not take more measures to remove this type of content from their platforms, then I won’t be afraid to take action.

"How far we legislate will be informed by the action and attitude that industry takes," he warned.

He said that he expects technology companies to:

- Block child sexual abuse material as soon as companies detect it being uploaded

 - Stop child grooming taking place on their platforms

 - Work with government and law enforcement to shut down live-streamed child abuse

 - For companies to be much more forward leaning in helping law enforcement agencies to deal with these types of crimes

  - Show a greater level of openness and transparency and a willingness to share best practice and technology between companies.

A further £2.6 million will be made available for prevention work, including to the child protection charity the Lucy Faithfull Foundation which works to reduce demand for online sexual images of children and prevent offending before it occurs.

The Home Secretary also pledged to convene a meeting of industry experts in the US, in partnership with Microsoft to challenge companies to work together to come up with tools to detect online child grooming which will then be offered for free to other companies

A new international network of government advisers on serious and organised crime will be created who will be stationed around the world and will help coordinate and drive action to tackle child sexual abuse in different regions. Further, a working group will be established with business and the advertising industry to look at stopping profit being generated from adverts on child abuse websites.

The government will also make£ 250,000 available to support new ideas on how to detect and disrupt live streaming of abuse.

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