Hundreds more potential image offenders identified through proactive targeting by police and NCA

10 December 2015

Greater levels of coordinated proactive working between police forces and the NCA has identified nearly 700 potential online child abuse image offenders in recent months.

Publishing figures today on operational progress by the NCA and 40 police forces, NCA-CEOP Director Johnny Gwynne and Chief Constable Simon Bailey, NPCC Lead for Child Protection, said the results had been achieved through a combination of more consistent prioritising, increased investment in capability, and the mainstreaming of a coordinated and proactive national approach.

The activity has led to the arrests of over 680 people on suspicion of accessing indecent images of children online in the past nine months, 104 of which were in positions of trust. Nearly 400 children have been safeguarded.

Johnny Gwynne said:

"NCA and UK policing are focusing resources in a deliberate, targeted and joined up way: the more stones we turn over the more we are able to find. We are investing more and delivering more for the millions of people we serve: that’s why we are here.

“A lot has happened since Operation Notarise in July 2014 not least that there is now a far broader understanding, beyond just law enforcement, of the scale of online image offending. National strategies now give child sexual exploitation the highest priority, and our investment in capacity and capability reflects that shift.

“The figures we are releasing today are one part of the tangible difference this investment is making. As well as seeking out offenders we have had significant and increasing success in identifying the victims captured in indecent images and ensuring they are protected. In 2014-15 this was 177, the highest ever figure, and in the first six months of this year we have already gone well beyond that, with 187 victims identified. Ultimately all of this is about keeping children safe.”

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Child Protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey said:

“Today’s results demonstrate a new level of intent to stop offenders viewing indecent images and abusing children, and a new sophistication in our tactics. This shows that a focus on targeted, proactive operations coordinated with the NCA works.  93 per cent of the people we arrested in this operational activity were not previously known to law enforcement in relation to child abuse.  If we hadn’t gone out looking for them as we have done, they would have remained under the radar and the nearly 400 children we’ve safeguarded since then would still be at risk.

“These operations are directed at those involved in the vile industry built around indecent images of children but this is part of a wider change in approach for the police service.  Our focus has got to be on working proactively with other agencies to protect the public from harm committed on or offline, with particular focus on those who are most vulnerable.”

Details of the tactics used to identify offenders are not being disclosed in order to protect their effectiveness in future investigations.

Today’s figures are only one strand of CSE investigation. In addition to proactively searching for online offenders, the NCA also receives between 1300 and 1500 referrals every month from industry and the public. Many of these referrals are fragments of data which need to be resolved, usually with the help of communication service providers, before individuals can be identified. Intelligence packages are then shared with police forces and NCA teams for investigation.

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