CHILDREN’S charity NSPCC has revealed the appalling scale of the online child abuse problem, and the challenges police forces face as offenders invent new ways to access the vile trade.
Those convicted came from all walks of life but one in three held positions of trust, or had roles that allowed them access to children. They included doctors, teachers, Scout leaders, clergymen, police officers, a magician, and a Santa Claus.
In a bid to raise awareness, the NSPCC has released a ‘snapshot’ of 101 offenders, including a football coach and college welfare officer from Greater Manchester who was convicted of making and possessing indecent images of children, and a councillor who was convicted of possessing and distributing indecent images of children, inciting and attempting to incite children to engage in sexual activity.
The snapshot also included a father and son, and a teenager who confessed to viewing such pictures from the age of twelve. Only two of those convicted were women.
More than a quarter were convicted of other sexual crimes, including grooming, voyeurism, and indecent assault and one in six already had criminal records for similar offences. Court cases also revealed how offenders were devising new ways to share abuse, including live streaming the assault and rape of youngsters.
Six out of ten were sent to prison. Others were given community orders or told to do unpaid work.
The NSPCC estimates that the number of cases reaching court are just a fraction of the overall level of offending with around 50,000 people in the UK thought to be making and sharing the shocking images.
Claire Lilley, head of child safety online for the NSPCC, said: “The scale of the problem is shocking and even more so because of the number of people who hold positions of trust in our communities. This is just a fragment of the hundreds of other similar convictions during the same time.
“It is a myth that there is no harm in just looking at these images. Defenceless babies and children are being molested to feed the appetite of offenders, and that demand is just not going away.
“We need urgent action to prevent this horrendous abuse from appearing online.”
Earlier this week we revealed new figures which suggest the number of Wigan people arrested for child porn offences has doubled in the last ftwo years.
The data released under Freedom of Information rules shows that last year 30 arrests were made for possessing indecent images of chldiren andor animals compared with 14 in 2013.Of those arrested last year seven were charged and 13 cases are still being investigated.
Det Insp Mike Gladwin from the Sexual Crime Unit, said: “Protecting vulnerable people is a priority for GMP and one of the areas we have been focusing our attention on is indencent images.
“There has been a national emphasis on this area of crime with operations taking place across the UK as well as locally.
“This has led to an influx in intelligence coming into us and enabled us to identify culprits and bring them to justice.
“We realise however there are likely to be further victims and the public can rest assured we won’t rest on our laurels”
As part of its Be Share Aware campaign the NSPCC has also released a video to show children about the dangers of sharing photos online.