Call for action on child abuse images
URGENT action must be taken to stamp out the growing illegal trade in child abuse images, according to the NSPCC.
The children’s charity is demanding tougher action to combat the illicit market, after revealing Avon and Somerset Constabulary arrested 88 people for possessing abuse images last year alone.
In 1990 – before the internet became hugely popular – the Home Office estimated there were just 7,000 hard copy images in circulation in the UK. Now, at least five times that amount are being confiscated every single day.
The escalating trade has also been accompanied by a similar rise in arrests. In 1995, the number of people convicted in England and Wales has risen 1,700 per cent, from 85 to 1,495.
However, the NSPCC’s South West head Sharon Copsey says arresting offenders is not enough – the abuse must be stopped at source to protect child victims.
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She said: “The number of these dreadful images is absolutely appalling. The truly awful thing is that more and more children are being abused so these pictures can be produced and once in circulation they may stay there for many years.
“If we can halt this vile trade we will be saving countless children from suffering sexual assaults which have a huge impact on their lives. It’s time the Government and industry got together to find an answer to this corrosive problem which cannot be allowed to continue.
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“There are obviously paedophile rings which make a sordid business of sharing these images. But there are now so many in circulation that people from all walks of life are getting caught with them. They have to understand these are not just images - they are crime scenes. ”
John Carr, secretary of the Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, said: “It’s reasonable to assume that as there is a seemingly never-ending conveyor belt of images more children are being abused to satisfy demand.
“And research has shown that the victims are getting younger and younger and are being assaulted in ever more grotesque and violent ways.
“Some of those who are caught with these abusive images say they had a sexual interest in children but had been too scared to do anything about it until the internet came along - then it opened the door for them. And once they’re in they crave more sickening levels of abuse.
“These numbers beggar belief but we need to face up to the realities of the situation and find better, more effective ways of tackling it.”