The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) have confirmed that they have received reports relating to 70,000 indecent images available on the internet, which is twice as many as in 2011, the BBC reports.
They have received 8,000 reports of obscene material being downloaded or shared in the UK alone, and there are an estimated 50,000 UK web users involved in distributing abuse images.
This comes a matter of weeks after Prime Minster David Cameron called for “more action” from internet service providers to rid the internet of images of child sex abuse. He confirmed that this “twists minds and is… a danger to children” and that “the time for excuses and blame is over – we must all work together.”
This followed the recent trials for the murders of five-year-old April Jones and Tia Sharp, 12, which showed that those responsible had viewed abusive images of children.
Live streaming has been identified as an emerging threat, where vulnerable overseas children have been exploited, with payment made to the family or criminals. CEOP claim that many abusers were hiding their actions deep in the “hidden internet” by using encrypted networks and other secure methods to distribute images, making it harder for law enforcement agencies to trace abusers.
Peter Davies, chief executive of CEOP said: “Our assessment shows that, sadly, there are still too many children at risk and too many people who would cause them serious harm. We should all practise zero tolerance to child sexual exploitation and abuse.”
Independent charity Victim Support, meanwhile, said that the police service must “ask itself some searching questions…Its first priority is to prevent and detect crime”.
Chief Executive Javed Khan said that there were “inconsistencies in the way forces collect, record and categorise child sex abuse offences. It is essential that every dot is joined up if the most vulnerable in our society are to be protected. Every police force must therefore contribute fully and consistently to the national intelligence picture – only then will we have a true picture of the scale of the problem.”
The government are equally troubled by this. Policing and Criminal Justice Minister Damian Green said that “more needs to be done. CEOP is doing excellent work and we will see its capability strengthened when it is transferred to the National Crime Agency later this year. I am leading a new Home Office group which is urgently looking at how we better identify those at risk”.