Protection experts say 300million images have been seized in two years. At the current rate it would take until 2032 to convict downloaders. Child abuse through social networks is also on the rise, reports charity.
The toll of child porn offences is now so high it would take police and the courts nearly 20 years to prosecute even those currently operating in Britain, it was claimed yesterday.
Child protection experts said the police have seized an estimated 300million indecent images in just two years - which are increasingly extreme and involving younger and younger children.
MPs heard that exploitation of children on social networking sites including Facebook has also seen a major rise, with many of the abusers operating from abroad and very difficult to track down.
John Carr, of the Children’s Charities Coalition of Internet Safety, revealed yesterday that at the current rate, it would take until 2032 to prosecute the child sex predators currently operating in Britain.
Five police forces who replied to a request about how many images they had seized came to 26million from April 2010 to 2012.
Mr Carr said according to statisticians if this rate was replicated across Britain, officers would have seized around 300million images in this time.
He gave the first indication of the massive scale of online child abuse while speaking at Commons Culture Select Committee’s first session on online safety yesterday.
There are estimated to be 50,000 child sex offenders in this country, whose crimes range from downloading images to carrying out physical abuse, according to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), the main body investigating child abuse.
Peter Davies, chief executive of Ceop said: ‘It is quite a stark figure. We check trends in images every year and our experience recently has been the victims seem to be getting younger and younger and the levels of abuse seem to be getting worse and worse. There is no comfort in any of our analysis.’
Mr Davies said most of the millions of images seized by police were duplicates but one or new images of an unidentified child were reported every week, and each of them was ‘a crime scene.’
He added that an ‘emerging trend’ in the exploitation was online grooming through websites, of ‘increasing severity’ which has very harmful consequences for the victims including suicide.
‘This is not so much about taking an interest in indecent images of children as using the medium of the internet to contact, ruthlessly manipulate and exploit and sexually abuse children to the point of causing them physical harm and psychological harm, and in some cases pushing them towards suicide, either because of the acts they have been compelled to do or in some cases because they’ve carried out acts online which are then used to blackmail them for money which they don’t have’, he said.
He added that it was difficult to detect because there is no physical contact between the victim and offender, who often ‘will target and harvest victims in a completely different part of the world’.
‘It’s important to identify that what we are trying to tackle is appalling aspects of human behaviour to some extent facilitated by the internet’, he said.
‘At the moment we are seeing roughly half this kind of activity taking place though by social networking sites, of which Facebook is the major one but not the only one , also through chat environments and other forums.’
These mediums are not to blame, he said, but needed to be managed better as the internet has ‘amplified, multiplied and sometimes almost industrialised’ the abuse of children, Mr Davies said.
On the issue of the number of people operating he said all police forces prioritise hunting ‘the worst offenders, the people at the heart of the networks who cause the greater harm’, and said the number of children protected from abuse was on the rise.
He added: ‘I’m told there are 85,000 prison places in the UK and that gives you some indication of what would actually happen if we actually got up one morning and arrested all these people....so we have to have a plan that goes beyond law enforcement’.
Mr Carr told MPs that illegal images were easy to find by those looking at legal adult content on the internet within ‘a couple of clicks’. ‘You can get pretty quickly to some of them....you need a little bit of determination but not a great deal’, he said.
He also called for legal providers of porn to use age verification procedures based on the electoral roll and credit card records, which are used successfully by the gambling industry to protect children viewing adult material which is ‘violent and sadistic’.
He supported the talks with service providers about measures to protect children including an opt-in system for online porn.
Prosecuting all child porn offenders in Britain would take 20 years: Protection experts say 300million images have been seized in two years 15 October 2013