THE BLOG

Never Before Will Law Enforcement Agencies Have Been So Well Equipped to Prevent Child Abuse

17/07/2014 16:41 BST | Updated 16/09/2014 10:59 BST

There are very few crimes which provoke such powerful emotions as child sexual abuse.

The predatory paedophiles who commit these vile and abhorrent offences destroy the lives of their vulnerable victims for their own depraved gratification. It is a stain on civilised society, and one this government is absolutely determined to remove.

For the vast majority of us, the innocence of childhood is joyous and sacrosanct. But sadly we know there are those who get a perverted pleasure from viewing images depicting the sort of sick crimes no one should have to suffer or see.

And in this age of the internet, it has never been easier for those images to be shared. There are millions of pictures of appalling abuse online, many being circulated on networks through which their users seek to protect their anonymity and avoid detection.

The National Crime Agency has been working to disrupt this activity and bring those involved to justice. It was announced yesterday that this six-month operation has safeguarded hundreds of children and resulted in 660 arrests.

The NCA's unique and unprecedented capability to co-ordinate law enforcement efforts has been invaluable, as has the expertise provided by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command.

There is, of course, much still to do. But this government is taking decisive action to stamp out child sexual exploitation.

That is why we have set up a Home Office-led National Group, through which agencies are working together to better identify those at risk and create a more victim-focused culture within the police, health and children's services.

Alongside the NCA, police forces are actively tackling this issue as evidenced by the increasing number of these cases the police are bringing before the courts and the significant sentences being handed down to perpetrators.

We have also established the UK-US taskforce to counter online child exploitation, through which we are drawing on the brightest and best minds from across industry, law enforcement and academia to stop the internet being used to abuse children.

Google and Microsoft have already made changes to their search engines to prevent images, videos or pathways to child abuse being returned from a blacklist of search terms, making it harder for offenders to find this appalling material.

In addition, we are committed to developing a single, secure database of all illegal images seized by the police and the NCA.

This will help officers work more effectively together to close the net on paedophiles and ensure internet companies can better identify, block and remove illegal images.

Never before will law enforcement agencies have been so well equipped to prevent abuse in the first place, detect it where it is happening, identify and protect victims and bring offenders to justice.

The Child Abuse Image Database will be up and running by the end of the year.

Government action and operations such as this one led by the NCA are sending the message loud and clear - child sexual abuse must stop, and we will do everything we can to end it.