Today’s Guardian carries a front page lead story about men living in the UK who are “potential child abusers”. Simon Bailey, Chief Constable of Norfolk and UK policing’s national lead for combatting child sex abuse, puts the number at around 20,000.
We are told that at the moment there are “hundreds” of police officers working on these sorts of crimes, but even “thousands and thousands” would not be enough to deal with them all. Our justice system does not have that sort of capacity but, in austerity Britain, there seems little prospect of expansion anyway.
Bailey refers to a recent report from the NSPCC showing an annual increase of 31% in reports to them of child sex abuse.
Bailey singles out live streaming as an issue of growing concern and he calls on Twitter – owners of Periscope – and Facebook – owners of Facebook Live – to do more to curb this type of misuse. And he reminds us that the child victims are coming from every type of background including some with “very capable, very caring parents …who think they are internet savvy.”
Once more we are reminded that there is no possibility of every adult perpetrator being arrested and brought before the courts. Police are having to prioritise those offenders whom they believe to be the most dangerous.
Let’s hope their prioritisation techniques are accurate.
Around one in five of all new child abuse images being found appear to be self-generated or have been made via the engagement of two or more children. Identifying child abuse images as quickly as possible, getting them deleted at source or having access to them restricted in whatever way that works, has to remain a key objective of public policy. In that connection, technical tools have a vital role to play. We need greater transparency in respect of online businesses’ use, or non-use, of such tools.