Culture, Media and Sport Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 729

Back to Report

Oral Evidence

Taken before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee

on Tuesday 15 October 2013

Members present:

Mr John Whittingdale (Chair)

Mr Ben Bradshaw

Angie Bray

Tracey Crouch

Philip Davies

Paul Farrelly

Mr John Leech

Steve Rotheram

Mr Gerry Sutcliffe


Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: John Carr, Secretary, Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, Claire Lilley, Senior Analyst, NSPCC, and Anthony Smythe, Managing Director, BeatBullying, gave evidence

Q1 Chair: Good morning. This is the Committee’s first session examining issues around online safety and I would like to welcome John Carr of the Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, Claire Lilley of the NSPCC and Anthony Smythe of BeatBullying. Perhaps you could begin by just giving us your view of the scale of the problem now, because obviously this has been an issue that has been of concern for some time. There are measures that have been taken and there are more measures that are potentially in prospect, but it would be helpful for you to tell us first of all what the volume is, how many people are involved and how easy it is to access images of child abuse or inappropriate material. Who would like to start?

John Carr: I will go first. The question of volume is absolutely central to this whole debate. Like with all areas of crime, it is impossible to get any precision as to the real volumes. There are various straws in the wind that give us reliable indicators. The NSPCC, for example, did a series of FOI requests to all the police forces in England and Wales asking them to report back to them how many child abuse images they had seized in arrests that they had carried out in the two-year period ending April 2012. In the time frame that the NSPCC was working to, only five forces replied, but those five forces reported that they had seized 26 million images in that two-year period. I spoke to a professional statistician and he looked at them-sorry, go ahead.

Q2 Chair: On the 26 million, just to clarify in my own mind, is that 26 individuals with 1 million images each, or is it a million individuals with 26? How does it work?

John Carr: That is an extremely good point-I was going to get to it later. The numbers themselves can sometimes conceal more than they reveal. There was one man, for example, in Cambridgeshire who was arrested with 5 million images on his machine. It is not uncommon to find individuals now with a million or more images. You are absolutely right; it is possible that those 26 million images represented the activity of no more than half a dozen highly obsessive individuals who were downloading large quantities. It is very unlikely. Just to finish on the point about numbers, because I do think they tell a story-albeit not the whole story, definitely-if you gross that up to assume broadly similar levels of activity by all of the police forces in England and Wales, that would have led you to a number in the region of 300 million that would have been seized by all police forces in England and Wales in that period.

Now, putting that on one side for the moment, we then have the revelations by Peter Davies, who I know you are going to see later today, on ITN at the end of May this year when he acknowledged that between 50,000 and 60,000 individuals had been identified by CEOP as being involved in downloading child abuse images. The period was not very clear, but none the less the key point that Davies made in that TV interview-I think it was very courageous of him to do it-was that that is simply beyond the capacity of the police to deal with this in any reasonable way. At no point since records began-for these purposes, by the way, that was around the mid-1980s-have British police ever arrested more than about 2,500 individuals for child abuse image-related offences. If you do the maths and assume that there are no new offences committed relating to images, the last individual on that list of 50,000 to 60,000 individuals who are known about now would not be arrested until 2032.

The answer is not that we simply throw our hands up in despair and say, "Nothing can be done." Something can be done, but it must involve industry in deploying ever-smarter, better technical tools to deal with it, because even if we were living in times of superabundance as opposed to times of austerity, with those kinds of volumes and those kinds of numbers of offenders, it is impossible to imagine how we would ever be able to, or want to, employ the right number of police officers, and to have the right number of prisons, courtrooms, judges and all those things to deal with the volumes that we now know exist. We have to find better technical solutions for addressing some of this.

Chair: Thank you. Just before I bring in the other two witnesses, we have two quick questions on what you said.

Q3 Mr Leech: Mr Carr, in relation to the scale of the problem, I think people would be amazed by the sheer numbers that you are talking about. Do you get a sense that the problem is massively on the increase, or is it simply that the detection of the problem is now far more straightforward and we are becoming more aware of what has always been a problem of this scale?

John Carr: It could be a bit of both. Certainly, obviously, we are lot better now at detecting it; we have better tools for spotting it. If we can’t arrest them, at least we know they are doing it, so that definitely accounts for part of it. Internet penetration is not going to go much further, or it does not have much further to go in this country, so I doubt that mere growth will lead to increase, but we are getting better at detecting it. Around the world, that is a different picture. There are lots of countries that are coming online only now for the first time, where we can expect to see similar patterns developing. That, of course, does in a way pose a threat here, because if the volumes are increasing elsewhere on the internet, they could in the end none the less find their way to the UK.

Q4 Tracey Crouch: Mine is a very quick one. With reference to the 26 million images, what percentage were of the level 5, I think it is, which is serious, and how many were level 1? Can you give some sort of breakdown of the kind of levels?

John Carr: I do not know exactly. The data was not broken down in that way, but I would guess, particularly with volumes of that kind, that they would probably correspond roughly with the kinds of images that the IWF is seeing in general, so a very substantial proportion. I think 70% of the images that IWF deals with depict children under the age of 10 being sexually abused so, almost by definition, a very high proportion of those will be level 5 or level 4-the worst kind.

Q5 Chair: Sorry to have cut you off, but let me come back now to Claire and Anthony.

Claire Lilley: Thank you. I just want to add to what John said about the freedom of information requests that the NSPCC did, and just to emphasise that that was five forces, none of which had a large metropolitan base, so that is not including London, Manchester or Birmingham, where the figures are likely to be even higher. I just add that caveat as well.

John has talked a lot about child abuse images. What I would like to touch on is the other issues and bringing the children’s voice into the session in terms of what the NSPCC hears via ChildLine from children. In 2012-13, we had almost 11,000 counselling sessions from children where the main thing that they wanted to talk to us about was a problem that they had had in relation to the internet. That was a 65% increase on the previous year. In terms of what children are telling us that they are experiencing, much greater volumes of children are so distressed that they are phoning ChildLine to talk about a problem on the internet. That can be anything from online bullying, so-called sexting or online grooming-all those sorts of issues covered within that.

Specifically in relation to online bullying, for example, that saw an 87% increase in contacts from children over the last year. That corresponds with a 4% decrease of wanting to talk about face-to-face bullying. We are seeing that children contacting ChildLine about bullying is massively increasing, and obviously it is an issue about the conduct of children, but the internet and access to smart phones, tablets and all these things are facilitating and exacerbating the problem.

Chair: That probably brings us neatly on to Mr Smythe.

Anthony Smythe: Yes. I represent an anti-bullying charity and my main interest is peer-on-peer abuse, cyber-bullying and trolling. Our research would suggest that one in three children have experienced cyber-bullying. More worrying is that you will find that one in 13 are subject to persistent cyber-bullying and that is what leads to the cases of suicide and self-harm that we have seen over the recent summer months. What is the greatest concern for children and young people-and now for adults-is the feeling that they are helpless and are hopeless in terms of getting advice and support. They do not know where to go to.

Our work with practitioners would suggest that a lot more needs to be done in strengthening roles and responsibilities and clarifying that so that we have an approach to tackle cyber-bullying and bullying, and realise that cyber-bullying does not always happen online. It sometimes can reflect what is happening in communities, schools and vice versa now. Children experience cyber-bullying online, and it is reflected in the playground, so you have to see those as overlapping circles with a great deal of movement between the two.

Claire Lilley: May I come back? Sorry, I meant to mention as well that I know the Committee is also looking at the impact of online adult content on children’s behaviour, and I wanted to mention that ChildLine has seen a 70% increase in the number of boys contacting the service because they have been upset by online pornography specifically, so seeing pornography and being distressed or feeling guilty because they have watched it, or feeling somehow dirty or ashamed because they have seen it, whether accidentally or deliberately. Also there is an increase in children being referred to our services that we run around the country that are for children with harmful sexual behaviour and watching pornography, with easy access to online pornography, is playing a part in their sexualised behaviour.

Q6 Chair: Can you just say a little more about what evidence you have of the sort of harm that is done by children either accidentally coming across, or deliberately coming across, material that is clearly adult and should not be seen by them?

Claire Lilley: The evidence base, it is fair to say, is growing. In the past 10 years, we have seen such an explosion in access to the internet and online pornography being freely available within a few clicks-it is very easy to get hold of. While the evidence base is still growing, the NSPCC would say that a precautionary approach would be the best approach, because essentially we are conducting a big experiment at the minute with our young people where they have access to all this online pornography very easily and we do not know what the influence will be. We have evidence from ChildLine that children are being pressurised to watch porn by their peers and they don’t necessarily want to do it. Girls are telling us that they are being pressurised to act out sex scenes from porn movies that they or their boyfriends might have watched, and there is the sexualisation of women and girls that is being caused, we believe, by these large numbers of porn being easily available over the internet.

John Carr: I will just come in on that. I think the word "pornography" when we discuss it in this context is in many ways very unhelpful, because certainly for people of a certain age, the word "pornography" is mentioned and images of a Playboy centrefold or pictures of ladies dancing without their bras on the beach or something spring to mind. Then this whole thing starts going about, "Well, aren’t you just being a bit old-fashioned or prudish?" Whatever view you take about that, the sort of material that we are in fact talking about that is available at the click of a mouse on the internet is light years away from anything of that kind. This is, in essence, violence. It is sadistic, and very often quite bizarre.

To go back to Claire’s point about the biggest experiment we have ever undertaken, porn has been around since time immemorial. Anybody who has been to Pompeii and visited the House of the Vettii can see it there in stucco on the wall. But never before, ever, including in the 1960s and 1970s, when a lot of the studies on porn were initially done, has the kind of material that is there now been available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in graphic colour, with full sound and free. In our evidence, we refer to the decision in the case of the Crown v. Perrin, which was decided in the Criminal Court of Appeal in 2002. This was a case of a man who was publishing extreme pornography on a website and had taken no steps to try to keep it away from kids. He had no age verification system-nothing in place-and he went to jail, but the judges said, "It is okay for you to publish porn. Nobody is saying you cannot or should not, but if you do, you must take steps to keep kids away from it".

That law is being honoured in the breach rather than in the observance. It is principally because most of the publishers are based overseas and the British police have not sought to extradite them or go after them, and that is a great pity. In our evidence, we have made a number of practical suggestions about how we might try to get at least companies that are based in Britain or operate from here to try to observe that particular law. That is to say, "If you are going to publish porn, okay, that is your business, but please take concrete steps to make sure kids cannot get easy access to it."

Anthony Smythe: Can I just add some statistics? In terms of bullying and cyber-bullying, the Department for Education produced some statistics a number of years ago that suggested that for those who are persistently bullied, their attainment drops by on average two GCSEs. Our research looked at persistent bullying and the link to suicides, and what we found when we looked back at the records was that 44% of child suicides had bullying as a contributing factor. That does not mean that they committed suicide because they were bullied. It could be that they suffered a bereavement and were bullied and cyber-bullied because of the bereavement, and the totality of what they were facing led to the suicide. But it is a major contributing factor to child suicide-peer-on-peer abuse.

Chair: That neatly brings us on because Tracey Crouch wants to explore this area.

Q7 Tracey Crouch: It does. I am just going to go further into cyber-bullying, if I may, but can I just follow up on a couple of the issues that John has raised with regard to pornography? Could you just explain to me: are there already certain restrictions in place for some of the pornographic content that you were referencing, such as, for example, the more bizarre or perhaps violent images? Does that already exist, or can you just go on to any pornographic website and have easy access to the more bizarre images?

John Carr: Two clicks of a mouse. In the UK, the mobile phone networks have, since 1 January 2005, all blocked access to adult content accessible either over their own networks or the internet without you first going through age verification process. If you are accessing through a mobile phone in the UK, broadly speaking, only adults should be able to access porn in that way. But of course there are lots of other ways that you can do it. Our wi-fi providers-all the larger ones-have said that they are going to block access to porn as well. That is a great achievement, by the way. It is a world first, so we can be very pleased with that. The only people who are not yet currently taking steps to block access to those types of sites are the ISPs. But, as we know, thanks to Mr Cameron’s efforts, there are currently discussions going on between all the large ISPs and the Government about introducing steps to limit access to that type of material. But right now today within the UK, there is nothing there routinely that restricts access to the most bizarre, the most violent and the most graphic types of pornography-anybody can get it.

Q8 Tracey Crouch: But is the age restriction process just a case of saying, "I am over the age of 18," and ticking the box?

John Carr: No. With the wi-fi, you will not be able to lift it-it will be fixed. By the way, that will apply only in public places where children and young people are present, so if you go to Spearmint Rhino, a casino or some place that is essentially wholly populated by adults and access the wi-fi there, you will be able to get anything that is on the internet. But ordinarily in Starbucks, at the Odeon, in a railway station and so on-places like that; public places where children and young people are going to be-you will not be able to get access to porn full stop, so you cannot prove you are over 18 and get it lifted. But with the ISPs, the process is being debated right now, and we do not quite know how that is going to pan out yet.

Q9 Tracey Crouch: But it will not impact on those accessing content at home?

John Carr: Yes, it would. Sorry, I lost my thread slightly. The mobile phone companies have quite a robust age verification system. You have to go through the same process that the online gambling companies use, and you have either to be on the electoral roll or to have a credit card that one of the credit reference agencies can get. There are a number of bits of information they collect from you as a mobile user to determine that you are in fact an adult. What the ISPs are going to do in the end at home, we do not know. We have heard what the Government have said they want them to do. We have not yet heard from them what they are in fact going to do, and they have until 31 December to tell us. But they could introduce age verification as well, if they wanted to, because it is tried and tested technology.

Q10 Tracey Crouch: Thank you. Can I just go back to cyber-bullying, please? We heard from Anthony about the scale of the statistics and what they see as the problem of cyber-bullying. I know that both the NSPCC and yourself, Mr Carr, have referenced cyber-bullying in your written submissions as well. Could you just expand on what you are seeing from your own organisations about cyber-bullying, please?

Claire Lilley: In terms of calls to ChildLine, we have seen an 87% increase in the last year, and huge volumes of children under extreme pressure, mainly as a result of bullying from their peers. I think the characteristics of online bullying that set it apart from traditional bullying are that because children very often have phones and access to the internet at home and in their bedroom, it is not something that stops when they go home and close the door. They no longer have that sense of safety, so it is literally 24/7. Some children are telling us that if they do not respond to a message within 20 minutes at 4 am, the bullying will increase-a sort of pack mentality sometimes where it is no longer just six children involved in the bullying, but perhaps the whole year group or going out to the whole school, so the child is feeling very vulnerable in terms of their exposure, feeling a huge degree of humiliation, not knowing who knows, whatever the rumour is, and feeling it is totally beyond their control and that they are very unable to do anything to combat it. If it is happening on social networking sites, for example, it will quite often be replicated via email and instant messaging, and even if they report it to social networking sites, they often feel like nothing is being done as a result of that and that no action is being taken, so children, when it is happening to them, feeling extreme vulnerability and humiliation, and a sense of helplessness.

Q11 Mr Bradshaw: Do you take up individual cases with social networking sites at your organisation?

Claire Lilley: No, we do not, because the service that ChildLine operates is confidential, so we never disclose anything, except in the case that a child tells us that they were about to commit suicide. Only then would we breach that confidentiality.

Q12 Tracey Crouch: Section 127 of the Communications Act describes the improper use of the public electronic communications network. Do you think that more could be made of the Communications Act to combat bullying on social media?

Claire Lilley: I would say that what bullying on social media comes down to is about behaviour. We can wave the long arm of the law at children, but what we need to do is to educate them about the impact of the behaviour in which they are engaging on people who are at the receiving end of it. We need to do much more to educate them to build their resilience, both when they are on the receiving end, but also to build their empathy and their sense of respect for other children. There may be things that we could do in terms of the law, but what we need to do is to build in much more education of children about the impact of their behaviour on others and get parents involved in talking to their children about how they behave online, how they conduct themselves and how they treat other people online.

Q13 Tracey Crouch: Anthony, do you think there should be further legislative change to combat bullying?

Anthony Smythe: I completely agree. The first priority is about prevention and education. Sometimes that does not work, though, so the question is what do you do next? What you want is a well-trained workforce around the child-a workforce that understands their roles and responsibilities and that can provide that support. As Claire says, bullying is 24/7, so we need infrastructure around the child that sees bullying from a child’s point of view. For too long, we have seen bullying as a school issue or a cyber-bullying issue. Children don’t see it like that. They do not have an online and offline world; it is just their world.

I would like the Government to reform their approach to bullying in the same way as they have reformed their approach to child protection, where they have seen child protection from the child’s point of view and had services rallying around that child. If you do that, you will get good early intervention, and that brings in the third sector, teachers and the police. If we share the responsibility, we will reduce the workload on one another because capacity is an issue.

In terms of the law, it is not fit for purpose. It does not protect children from cyber-bullying; it does not protect adults from cyber-bullying. The Children’s Commissioner for Wales this morning, I believe, made a recommendation to make cyber-bullying a criminal offence. I would endorse that because I think we need to give out a message that bullying is unacceptable in our society, whether it be cyber-bullying or bullying. Under the current legislation, the Communications Act and what have you, the thresholds have been set really high. I have not seen many cases in my time where it has been used to address bullying, so I think we need updated legislation that is fit for purpose. Most of the legislation that deals with cyber-bullying was drafted many years before the likes of Twitter and Facebook. There needs to be a fresh look at this. There needs to be a legal definition of bullying, cyber-bullying and trolling because we all talk about these things, yet we are often working off a different definition. That needs to be embedded into legislation.

In answer to your question, yes, there need to be stronger safeguards in place. There needs to be an anti-bullying strategy and an anti-cyber-bullying strategy for this country, which would set out the measures for education, prevention, intervention and support, and how we can strengthen the current criminal justice system.

Q14 Tracey Crouch: Thank you. A final question: do you think that social media providers could do a little bit more to stamp out bullying? You saw the recent very sad and tragic situation of the suicide and I just wondered whether you think that they should be doing more to try to prevent cyber-bullying.

Anthony Smythe: A lot of the big ones have done a great deal of work over recent years and that should be recognised.

Each time my teams that go into schools do a straw poll and ask, "What websites are you using?"-my teams are quite young people, so they are relatively up to speed with what is going on out there-they find that children and young people are using new websites and each time the dynamic of the website changes. There is a new one now where a bit of chat is posted straight away and deleted within a short period of time. The new websites are playing catch-up a great deal, and we heard a lot over the summer about

Ultimately what I would want from websites is for them to know their customers. Why do people cyber-bully? First, because they can; secondly, because they haven’t had the education to understand the impact it has on other people. How do we deal with the first point, which is going back to John’s point about having verification about the user’s identity? You can go on to Twitter and set up any account, and you can go on to all the other websites and by and large set up an account that allows you to go in and say things without fear of being suspended or caught. There needs to be a lot more done at the point of registration and a lot more investment into moderation of their websites.

I would like more transparency of the websites to hear from the big websites about how many cases of cyber-bullying are reported to them each year. What did they do about them? How quickly did they respond to those cases? What support and help did they offer? It is about having a bit more accountability. They will say that they probably do that, and if you spend five hours on the internet, you might find that information annexed somewhere. I would like that information signposted on their main websites so that parents and young people can have access and understand the website that they are using.

John Carr: Just to make a quick point, I hope. Education and awareness-what goes on between a child’s left ear and their right ear-are always going to be the best defence for them in life in general, including on the internet, no question. However, let me just point you to the results of research published by Ofcom in August or September, I think: 37% of three and four-year-olds are now regularly going online in the UK, with 9% of three and four-year-olds seemingly having their own tablets. Both those numbers are going to go up, not down. There is a limit to how much education and awareness can do in the context of three and four-year-olds.

We have a choice. We can either wag our fingers and say, "Parents, don’t be so irresponsible. Don’t let your kids go online at that age," or whatever, or we can accept that that is the reality of modern parenting, which therefore pushes us to looking towards the industry again for more and better technical support. Education and awareness are always the best possible option, no question, but that will not work for very young children and for vulnerable children. In that context, I think we do need to see more and better technical solutions coming into play to help.

Q15 Mr Bradshaw: Mr Smythe, you called for cyber-bullying to be made a criminal offence. Forgive my ignorance, but are there any other jurisdictions where it is already a criminal offence, or where non-cyber-bullying is a criminal offence?

Anthony Smythe: Yes. A number of countries around the world are having this very same debate. Australia and New Zealand are bringing in new legislation; Canada is about to bring in new legislation; Ireland is currently looking at it. There is an element of everyone is playing catch-up. What I would like to see is not just legislation around cyber-bullying, but a criminal offence on bullying and cyber-bullying. As I mentioned earlier, a child will be bullied in the playground and that continues online. We need to make that link because a child will not just see it as cyber-bullying; they will see it as consistent, persistent bullying. A number of countries are looking at this. Every time I have looked at a review, the recommendation always comes out to make cyber-bullying a criminal offence. I think they are just going through those procedures, so that is happening right now.

Q16 Mr Sutcliffe: It was interesting to me that the first mention of parents came in 34 minutes since you started-that was the first mention of parents. A bit of context to my contribution: I am 60 years old, and I have children and grandchildren. My oldest grandchild is 13. I am trying to come to grips, John Carr, with the size and scale of this issue. I think that Anthony’s survey was in terms of one in five 12 to 16-year-olds having interacted with strangers online, and 33% of 12 to 16-year-olds going online in their own bedrooms. The size and scale of the problem is something that we need to get out into the open in terms of where we are. I do believe that there is something for the law to do, but I do think there is an issue around parenting and also content.

Again, as a 60-year-old fuddy-duddy, with the sexualisation and violence on TV now, I think the watershed has gone by the bye. If you look at some of the soaps-look at some of the storylines on Coronation Street, Emmerdale and things like that-and the violence and sexual innuendo, is there an issue for society here around how we deal with these things in terms of context and content? There are two questions: size and scale; and the inevitability of what is going on in terms of the availability.

John Carr: On the wider point you make about the sexualisation of society, I think with how what used to be considered unusual is now considered normal or typical, there has definitely been a shift, but however far you look across that spectrum, we are a very long away off accepting some of the stuff that is on PornHub or YouPorn, for example, or some of the more gross sites that are out there. They are a very, very long away from anything that you might see on a music video or at 10 am on Channel 4-or even at 1 in the morning on Channel 4. Of course the context has shifted, and things are not considered to be quite so outrageous today as they were so long ago, but the kind of things that we have been concentrating on are still way outside any spectrum of what would be considered to be generally normal.

The size and scale is part of the problem. I have been speaking to legislators and investigators as well, which is what you are now. In the past, a lot of people, when they have thought about what to do about the internet, have said, "It is too difficult. It is global. Nothing can be done". A lot of people have a vested interest in getting everybody to believe that is true. They want people to believe that nothing can be done, that Governments are impotent and that all we can do in the end is to trust big business or all these internet companies to do the right thing. But time and time again, we see signs that they do not, and it is only when they are pressed by legislative measures or Governments very often, sadly, that they will act.

There are things that can be done. Even if every country in the world does not do them at the same time as we do, that is not a reason for us not doing them. Leadership and showing an example is also an important part of this whole equation. There are lots of things that we did first in Britain. Look at what I was mentioning earlier on wi-fi and mobile phones. We were the first in the world to do that. Does that make us mad? No. Other people will catch up; other people will copy us. There is a normative aspect of this, isn’t there? There is a question about what are the right things or what we ought to expect companies to do? We ought to articulate them and our Government should press for those things to happen, however difficult they might appear on the surface.

Claire Lilley: Just on the question of parents, there is a very good tracker that Ofcom does of parents’ and children’s attitudes to media. Of the parents of 12 to 15-year-olds, 63% said that they felt that their child knew more about the internet than they did. I think, particularly with older children, that that is a problem, but it is a problem that we can address by encouraging parents to think of the internet as an extension of their parenting and that what they have to do is use their common sense and the same principles and guidelines that they would use in the so-called offline world and just apply those from a very early age, as the child grows, to the online world. We need to give parents confidence and empower them to think that they can deal with these issues, because the evidence does show-work by Sonia Livingstone at the LSE-that when parents lay down boundaries and guidelines for their children, children will adhere to those. That is where the point comes in again about educating children about how to behave.

Anthony Smythe: Can I just add to that? In my paper, I said that the most useful parental control is parental responsibility. There is a need to get more information and advice out to parents so that they can have those discussions. They often feel intimidated when it comes to tech and children. They need not, because ultimately it is about, as Claire says, having those discussions about empathy for other users online and being responsible online. Often you find with cyber-bullying that they don’t often realise the damage on the victim-the person on the other end of the bullying. When you address that, they start to change their behaviours.

Q17 Mr Sutcliffe: On that, Anthony, in your survey, 22% of 12 to 16-year-olds thought that being bullied online was part of life. It has become the norm, hasn’t it, in terms of there being an acceptance of bullying by that 20%?

Anthony Smythe: I found that statistic to be quite sad because they have just given up and we need to make bullying and cyber-bullying unacceptable. The reason why people tend to troll and join in with the cyber-bullying is because they feel it is okay to do it. Again, it goes back to that programme about education, about empathy for other people online and about the fact that it will have an impact on that person. You may not be the only person saying it; you may be person No. 1,000 and they have probably been hearing that abuse for six months or a year. That is why we see the self-harm. That is why we see, unfortunately, in recent months, the suicides. We do need to educate people online. The internet providers have a role in there in the social networking sites. They also have a role pointing users to help and support that they can get as soon as they make a referral to them. My charity has counselled over 3,000 children over the last year on bullying and cyber-bullying, but I have not received many referrals from the big internet or social networking sites-they come to us direct. That is something we need to improve on.

Claire Lilley: I would just like to build on that by saying that in terms of educating children about these issues, it is definitely parents, but also the industry. There is a lot more they could do in terms of the number of human moderators they have enforcing their terms of service, being very clear about what their terms of service are, having terms of service written in very basic language that is child-friendly-all these things-and being much more transparent. At the minute, we have no idea of how many reports they are getting of online bullying or online grooming per year. They could be much more transparent about what they are seeing and what they are doing to deal with it, and about what the rest of us could do in partnership with them to help deal with it as well.

Q18 Angie Bray: If I could just continue a little bit along the lines of my colleague, Gerry Sutcliffe, about the role of parents in this, because what I see at the moment is an army of people marching into family life, in a sense, whether it is the Government or organisations like your own. It is changing laws and having to put filters on this, that and the other-which is information to other people-all because effectively, it would seem to me, you are saying that there is a shift in the relationship between parents and their children. Call me old-fashioned, but there was a debate many years ago about whether children should have televisions in their rooms precisely because of what they might be watching that was not being monitored. Fundamentally, isn’t the point that parents should have the confidence-I understand what you are saying about online and internet and all that-as they have done in the past and make the time to take an interest in what their children are doing in the privacy of their own rooms, however intrusive they might be worried that might seem to be?

Claire Lilley: I think that is the ideal scenario: parents who are engaged, who are confident, who understand their children and who make time for their children. Unfortunately, that is not always the reality. Some parents are not confident and don’t feel equipped, and there are some children who, as a result, are particularly vulnerable. There are also children who do not have an active adult in their life, or perhaps their parents might be substance misusers, for example. There are quite a lot of children in that bracket. I think we have a duty to spread the load. Parents definitely have a big role, but there is a lot that the rest of us can do. We have mentioned the sexualisation of society. It is a broader problem than just within families and the family unit; it is a problem for the whole of society, so we all need to play a role in that.

Q19 Angie Bray: I take that point, but fundamentally the family unit is there. It is, most people would argue, the most successful start for a child’s life. I just feel that the stress is now all on what the state can do to deal with this problem, but there is much less about what can be asked of parents to take responsibility for their own children. I wonder whether your messaging should not start by talking about parents, rather than talking about changing laws and applying more regulation. Shouldn’t it start, where it possibly can-I accept that it cannot always-in the home with a proper relationship, where the parents expect to be able to go in, knock on the door and say, "Hi. What are you up to this evening?"

Claire Lilley: Yes, absolutely.

John Carr: First of all, a lot of this activity is not taking place in the child’s room. Bear in mind that internet access is now essentially ubiquitous. You can walk out of your house with a tablet, a mobile phone or a games console and connect to the internet essentially anywhere. The things I was referring to earlier about the wi-fi providers are an example of them doing the right thing and essentially helping parents to create an environment that they would want their children to be in. What parent would be happy with the thought that their child can go into a restaurant or Starbucks and sit next to a dirty old man looking at porn on his laptop? Nobody would, because there is a reasonable expectation that that type of material ought not to be in public view in places where children and young people are going to be.

It is why we have had rules and laws about this type of thing in relation to cinema, for example, and there was for a very long time. In a way, some of the things that we are describing are us as a society catching up with the consequences and impact of the new technology, and trying to recreate in the virtual space rules and laws that we have had-not quite since time immemorial, but certainly for a very long time. I do not hear anybody arguing, for example, that we should get rid of the rules about 18-rated movies and make them open to everybody and anybody. In essence, all we are doing-certainly when you talk about porn-is trying to recreate in the reality for children’s lives, which is a virtual one, the same rules that we have applied for a long time in cinemas.

Another aspect of this as well, by the way, is the knowledge gap. There was a debate many years ago about whether it should be legal for parents to buy their children a computer or a mobile phone until they had passed a test like for a driving licence or something to show that they had at least a rudimentary understanding of the types of things they were handing over to their kids. That never got anywhere. Certainly the industry did not like the idea that this could act as a brake on the sales of these brand-new shiny devices. We absolutely put parents front and centre, but what we also acknowledge is that, particularly because of the speed at which these things have changed, a lot of parents-even very dedicated, loving, nurturing and supportive parents who would fit any ideal paradigm that you could construct-feel they need that little bit of extra help, and that is where I think the state can play a role.

Q20 Angie Bray: What you are saying fundamentally is that this new technology has fundamentally altered the relationship between parents and their children because it is-

John Carr: The same potential for control and intervention simply does not exist. Some parents think, "Oh, little Johnny is up in his room. He is safe. He is upstairs. He is not out on the street playing with the bad boys and the bad girls. He is not behind the bicycle shed smoking. He is up in his room online." In other words, there is a fundamental gap in the knowledge that we need, and a lot of this you can see as a way of trying to help bridge that gap.

Anthony Smythe: I can only repeat what John just said. Even the best parents need help and advice in terms of addressing this issue and having those conversations. Ultimately, I do not think it is for parents alone to do this. Peer-to-peer support is sometimes the best way to tackle online abuse. The approach cannot be top-down, because top-down approaches from Government probably will not work, but we do need better leadership so that we can help to clarify roles and responsibilities so that when a child is cyber-bullied in the middle of their summer holidays, either the child or the parents know where to go to get support, to feel safe and for that cyber-bullying to stop. I do not think that scenario is an easy one for people to answer yet. The Department for Education did a lot of good work in terms of clarifying roles, responsibilities and powers for head teachers to deal with bullying in schools. We have not seen the same in terms of cyber-bullying, and while it would be good to get that leadership, it needs to involve everyone-it cannot be top-down. It needs to be a conversation; a joint plan, if you like.

John Carr: Sadly, many of the big internet companies that are not British-they are not based here; their jurisdiction is elsewhere-do need to be encouraged, let us put it that way, to act. No business that I have ever heard of willingly steps up and says, "Please regulate me. I do not know what to do, so please would you, Government or politicians, tell me what to do?" They do not do that. Businesses will go on ploughing their own furrow unless and until something cuts across their pathway. That is what we do, in essence. We try to raise these issues and that is what Governments do as well.

Q21 Steve Rotheram: Just following on from Angie Bray’s questions, it would be fantastic to believe that all parents are responsible and do have that relationship with their children. While I genuinely believe that education and awareness are primarily the ways to tackle the issue, that is not always the case. There are parents who are absolutely fearful of IT and do not understand it, and therefore do not understand the content that can be accessed via it. But you also mentioned that there are potential technical solutions to it. There are flash screens that can come up that say you are about to access a site of adult content or whatever. There are restrictions that can be put on to these, such as for anything that is over 18, you have to opt in rather than out of it. There are blockages, I believe, that you can do to adult content coming into the home. I do not think this is all an either/or solution.

John Carr: Correct.

Steve Rotheram: I think with the education, fantastic, but there may well be other things that can be done. What are the most effective ways and what more could be done to curtail children’s access to adult content or age-restricted material, including pornography and graphic depictions of violence?

John Carr: We have never said that porn should not exist or should not be on the internet. If it is legal, there is no reason why it should not be published, but companies that make pornography available should take steps to make sure that kids cannot access it. They should employ age verification. The British gambling industry has done it with tremendous success. We never hear of cases of kids getting online and gambling. Why? Because Parliament, through the Gambling Act 2005, introduced a law making it obligatory. The Gambling Commission can give you a licence to operate as an online gambling company only if you prove to the commission that you have an age verification system in place that works and that is robust. That could be done in any other area, including this one.

There are technical tools available, but they are not being used-they should be. I do not want to argue against myself because I am a great believer in technical tools helping parents to put in place stuff that they would want, even if they do not know that it is what they would want, if you see what I mean. Technical tools can do a great deal to supplement good parental support and guidance. They will never be 100% perfect. Nothing in life is 100% perfect. No self-respecting parent would delegate their parental responsibilities to a piece of software, but they definitely can help, and in some situations that software might be the only help that exists to keep that child safer than it would otherwise be. There are tools available. They can be done. They will not solve everything, but they could do a lot to help.

Claire Lilley: Just to add to that, one of the arguments we hear against the use of these parental controls and against the active choice or the opt-in is that it will lull parents into a false sense of security. If that is the case, as John has said before, there has been an awful lot of non-lulling going on for a long time. The parents who are already using these parental controls are the parents who are already engaged and therefore are not complacent and probably already doing a range of other things to support the use of those tools, like having conversations with their children and looking at their children’s browsing history and so on. But for the parents who are not already having those conversations and not already using the tools, the opt-in system will provide a nudge to make them think about it and engage with this subject, so we think that is valuable.

Anthony Smythe: My main concern with filtering is that there is a danger it may filter out useful information for children and young people, so it could be information on sex advice or health conditions and so on, such as anorexia.

John Carr: But that is bad filtering.

Anthony Smythe: That is bad filtering, but there is a risk that it will happen. The most important thing we can do regarding technology in terms of social networking sites is for social networking sites to know who is on their site at any one time and to have that verification in place so that people cannot set up fake websites, because it is those fake websites that allow you go on and abuse others without fear of being caught. If people knew that there were stronger laws in place and that they could be traced online, they would behave differently. The filtering is fine to a certain degree, as long as it doesn’t block useful information. What filtering will not do is prevent peer-on-peer abuse.

Q22 Chair: How exactly do you envisage that happening? Anybody can set up a Facebook account with an alias just by creating an email address. What more do you expect them to do?

Anthony Smythe: That is my concern-that it is too easy at the moment. John has mentioned how it has been done in other parts of the online world. We need to look at that age verification. I know DFE was doing a lot of work in looking at ways to take that forward. Ultimately, I think that is a job for industry to take forward. They are earning billions and billions of pounds. They can find a way, I am sure, if they were told to and this is where pressure from Government would be useful. But as a starter for 10, it may be the use of credit cards-that type of thing-so that you know who that user is and that they are at a certain age. At this moment in time, for example, in my charity, we have a Twitter account for our resident dog and that is how easy it is to set up these accounts. There is no point threatening somebody that you will suspend their account because they know they can set up a new one straightaway. We just need to review the whole situation.

Claire Lilley: Some of these sites need more human moderators to look for the fake accounts. That is one part of it, but they also have very sophisticated algorithms where they look at what language people are using, what sites they are visiting and what they are talking about online. They can tell with quite a degree of sophistication a lot about the individuals. Twitter, for example, has a minimum age of 13, but when you sign up to Twitter, you do not have to put in your date of birth. There is nothing to stop you. Twitter would say that what it does is to look at its algorithms to spot the children who are under 13 and therefore potentially on a site that is aimed at an older audience and containing information, posts and so on that are not suitable for their age. Its argument is that it uses very sophisticated algorithms, so I think there is a lot more that the sites could do.

John Carr: I will just make a fairly obvious point. The abuse of anonymity lies behind most of the enduring problems on the internet that we are concerned about. I do not care if people sign in as Donald Duck or Ronaldo or whatever. What matters is not how you sign on, and not necessarily how you present yourself in a public space on the internet, but that you are traceable. If people were traceable and knew that, should they cross a certain line, the cops, the courts or whatever could fairly rapidly ascertain who they were and reach out to them, I think that would have a tremendously beneficial effect across the internet in all sorts of different ways.

Of course immediately you then get thrown back at you, "What about political dissidents in North Korea? What about whistle-blowers? What about people dealing with sensitive subjects of one kind or another who need or can benefit from anonymity?" Two things to say about that: I have no desire to make it more difficult for political dissidents in North Korea to overthrow their Government, if that is what they want to do. I have no desire to make it harder for whistle-blowers to do their public service or for people who deal with sensitive information. But it cannot for ever be a question of either you make your children safer, or you make it impossible for political dissidents to log on.

Q23 Chair: So how do you do it? What is it that you would like to happen?

John Carr: One potential route would be to develop a trusted third-party institution of some kind in whose integrity one could have a very high degree of confidence that could issue IDs that would not be disclosed to anybody unless and until due process had been followed. If you were dealing with a sensitive health issue or you were a whistle-blower, or if you were a political dissident in a particular country or whatever-although God knows, after the revelations of what the NSA gets up to with Mr Snowden, whether you would ever trust the internet again anyway-you would be able to be behind a shield of anonymity without putting yourself entirely beyond the pale.

Q24 Chair: So you have that, but what I am asking is what are you expecting Facebook, for instance, to do to satisfy themselves?

John Carr: Sorry, right. So the requirement on internet service providers would be to verify that the individual who has just signed up with them is not in fact a dog, but an actual human being with an actual and verified address where they can be reached. That alone would act as a major brake on a lot of the bad behaviour.

Q25 Chair: At the moment, I go on to Facebook and call myself Donald Duck, I have created or whatever-

Steve Rotheram: No, I did Donald Duck.

Chair: Oh, Steve has Donald Duck. But whatever it is, I have a Facebook account. What is that you want Facebook to do before signing me up?

John Carr: What the gambling companies do now is to say, "If you want to place a bet, that is fine; that is what we are here for. We just need to check that you are who you say you are". They ask you for various bits of information-four or five different pieces of personal information that they confirm-and assuming everything holds up they give you your account. You can then call yourself Donald Duck; it does not matter. That particular Donald Duck will be traceable back to John Whittingdale, SW1 and you will behave accordingly, one assumes.

Q26 Chair: Do you think there is any prospect of Facebook or Twitter agreeing to do this?

John Carr: Not voluntarily, no, but with all the revelations Mr Snowden has made and continuing escalation in criminal behaviour online, and law enforcement around the world feeling more and more beleaguered and besieged, I do not think the current situation is sustainable in the very long run. Will big companies on the west coast of America seek to resist this? Yes, they will. It will be a tussle of will between political institutions and Governments as to who wins that battle or how quickly it will be won, but I have no doubt the current situation is not tenable in the long run.

Q27 Steve Rotheram: Chair, I think there could be an evidence session just on that one aspect of what we are looking at. I have met Facebook, Twitter, the police, the Home Office and the DPP on trolling as an issue. I thought I had a simplistic solution whereby the verification could be done with somebody’s national insurance number, but it costs to go through the verification process and the likes of Twitter and Facebook are not prepared voluntarily to cost themselves several billions of pounds because there are literally billions of people who are on social media platforms, so it would take something from the Government to force their hand.

There are also issues of death threats and certainly rape threats that happened to a Member of Parliament, and the algorithm did not quite pick that up because it was a little bit more subtle. There were issues about that, so that had to be monitored by an individual over a two-week period and somebody was arrested for that. The laws are in place. The laws around this are very complex. We have picked up on seven different pieces of legislation that can be covered for what happens online and offline, so it might be time for Parliament to look at this as an issue and to take it seriously. There is something called the Trolling Academy that promotes individuals specifically to troll MPs, for instance. After this, who knows? We might all get what I got last time I mentioned this, which was lots and lots of Twitter feeds or whatever they are called-tweets-and Facebook feeds on our statuses attacking us. But there you go, that is part and parcel.

If we could just move on to the issue about child abuse images, given that these images are illegal throughout the world, to what do you attribute the apparent prevalence of the material that was mentioned before? Was it 300 million pieces that are known to exist in the UK alone?

John Carr: I think it is a profound shock to realise that so many people are interested in that type of material. There is an appetite for it and people go and get it, and they circulate it. They are getting away with it because we do not have the capacity to stamp it out.

Q28 Steve Rotheram: We do not have the capacity.

John Carr: We do not at the moment, for sure. I do not know if Peter Davies has arrived in the room yet. Look at Peter Davies’ interview on TV at the end of May. He said he would like to arrest all 50,000 to 60,000 people who CEOP had identified as being involved in exchanging or trading these images, but that is not the situation we are in, so they go after the-

Q29 Steve Rotheram: Is it lack of capacity or resource? We have the ability, because we can detect them.

John Carr: I suppose if Peter had 100,000 police officers and an unlimited budget, he could probably get them all, but we have not, and I do not see any scenario where that is going to happen.

Claire Lilley: The internet has caused a huge growth in the number of people who are looking at these images. It has removed a lot of the key inhibitors that would have once stopped men looking at it. You can now get these images completely anonymously, they are free or very affordable, and they are very easily accessible. Because of those three things, we have seen a growth in men-it is usually men-who once would not have gone down this route, but now they are looking at it. That is why the NSPCC believes there is a need for a public education campaign. From studies of offenders, their motivations and the reasons why they have done it, quite a lot of them will maintain that they have not done anything wrong, that it was just an image and that they did not touch a child, so they did not actually commit child abuse. We need to educate people that these are not just images; that by looking at these images, they are committing an offence; that a child is being re-victimised every single time an image is looked at; and that they are potentially affecting their own sensitivity around the issue and escalating their own ability to go down that route and end up abusing in the physical sense themselves. There is quite a lot of research now about the crossover between non-contact and contact offending and CEOP would put it at about 50%. There are a couple of studies that put it at between 40% and 55%, which is a very high level of crossover. It is not just looking at an image; it is much more dangerous than that.

Q30 Steve Rotheram: You said that they are easily accessible images. Does that in some way excuse the fact that people might innocently stumble on them? My understanding is that it is not easy to click on something and then for these graphic images that we are talking about, even though there are 300 million of them, to be readily accessible-there are other things that you would have to click on to. So if you just put a name up or something and a whole list of images came up, they would not be of the graphic nature, surely, of child images.

John Carr: It depends. You can get pretty quickly to some of them. Some of the ostensibly legal adult sites will have sections with names like "jail bait" or "barely legal" and very often that is a code for saying if you keep going just a couple of clicks through there, you will find stuff that is not legal and definitely is jail bait. If you go on to peer-to-peer networks, you can type in certain words and pretty quickly get at them. You are right that you need a little bit of determination, but not a great deal.

Claire Lilley: Anyone who innocently stumbles across them accidently should be reporting them immediately to the IWF. Lots of people do, though not everyone by any means. I am sure the IWF will talk about that in the next session.

John Carr: Just be clear, we are not blaming the internet for this. People do things, not machines. What the internet has done is open pathways that have allowed people to walk down them in a way that just was not there before. That is the shocking and surprising thing-the numbers of people who have decided to walk down that path.

Q31 Steve Rotheram: But internet providers cannot abrogate responsibility completely for those images being on their systems. Surely there must be some people who could block those images.

John Carr: Absolutely; I 100% agree. We do have a fundamental issue with the law, of course, which is that the EU-wide e-commerce directive expressly says that you have no legal liability or responsibility for anything on your network unless and until you have actual knowledge of its existence. Some companies take that as a get out of jail card. They say, correctly, "We are not accountable. We cannot be prosecuted or pursued for failing positively to go forward to try to block things." To their credit, many choose to, certainly in the UK, but not all do. That is because our law says there is no liability for this material online unless and until you have actual knowledge.

Q32 Steve Rotheram: Even though the content itself is illegal.

John Carr: To be honest, they must know that that illegal content is on their network, but unless they have actual knowledge of it, they cannot be held liable. I get that, up to a point-you cannot find somebody guilty of something if they do not know specifically that it is there-but I think it is a shield that scoundrels can hide behind. We ought to simply acknowledge that this stuff is out there and there should be an expectation that companies running internet access providing services or internet ISPs ought to have an obligation to try to intervene to minimise or reduce this type of material, even if you do not hold them legally liable.

Q33 Steve Rotheram: Do we know how many sites or images are taken down on a regular basis?

John Carr: You have the IWF appearing in a minute.

Chair: Absolutely; that is for our next panel.

Claire Lilley: Just one last point. There is a lot of information we do not know and one of the things that we do not have in this area is some sort of high-level strategic information-sharing forum. There is a lot of partnership working going on, but there is no one place in which it is held in the same way as I believe there is for terrorism, for example. We obviously have UKCCIS, but it does not deal with child abuse images online because it largely takes the view that those are illegal and therefore that is dealt with. I think we do need some sort of more strategic forum at which industry-CEOP, IWF, everyone-gets around the table and shares information and best practice about what can be done.

Chair: That very neatly leads us to our next panel, so may I thank the three of you very much?

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Susie Hargreaves, Chief Executive, Internet Watch Foundation, and Peter Davies, Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre, gave evidence

Q34 Chair: May I welcome our next two witnesses: Susie Hargreaves, Chief Executive of the Internet Watch Foundation, and Peter Davies, the Chief Executive of CEOP?

Perhaps we can continue from the point we reached with the last panel: can you first of all give us your idea of the volume, the scale of the problem and the number of people who are involved; and perhaps address Claire’s point about the need for greater co-ordination in gathering information?

Peter Davies: After you.

Susie Hargreaves: Thank you very much, Mr Chairman. Would it be useful if I just gave a brief summary of how the IWF works and the key areas in which we operate?

Chair: Yes.

Susie Hargreaves: The IWF is the UK hotline for reporting criminal content, specifically child sexual abuse content hosted anywhere in the world, non-photographic images of child sexual abuse hosted in the UK and obscene adult content hosted in the UK. We are a self-regulatory body founded by the UK internet industry 17 years ago. We are an independent charity with an independent board and independent of law enforcement and Government. Our operations are covered by a memorandum of understanding with the Association of Chief Police Officers and a service level agreement with CEOP. We work very closely with CEOP on a day-to-day basis. Very quickly, we are funded by the internet industry-80% of our money comes from them and the remaining 20% comes from the EU as the Safer Internet Centre for the UK along with Childnet International and the South West Grid for Learning.

Specifically, the way we work is that we currently take reports from the public-although this is about to change-and assess those reports, and if we find that child sexual abuse content is hosted in the UK, we issue a notice and takedown. We typically have the content removed in under 60 minutes. If it is hosted outside the UK, which the majority are, we notify the sister hotline in that country or international law enforcement, and until such time as that content is removed, we place it on a blocking list, which is used across the UK and in many other countries. It is a very dynamic list and it is updated twice a day, and the content stays on the blocking list until such time as it is removed at source. The most effective way to remove content is to remove it at source. It is our view that blocking will only stop inadvertent access and will not stop the determined. We also have a keywords list.

My final point is to say that 17 years ago, when we were founded, 18% of child sexual abuse content was hosted in the UK. It is now down to less than 1% and that is because of the tremendous relationships we have. It is about partnership working. It is about the UK and international internet industry, and our relationship with law enforcement, the Government, the public and civil society.

To answer specifically your question about the extent of the problem, the truth is that nobody knows how many images are out there. John has mentioned a number of images, but we do not know. Nobody knows how many unique images are out there. The majority of the images we see are duplicates and I imagine that the majority of the images within those numbers that John quoted were also duplicates. To give you an indication, we see about one to two new images a week. The scale of the problem to us is that last year we had about 40,000 reports of which we actioned just under 9,500 individual webpages. A webpage can contain from one image up to thousands of images or videos. Of those just under 10,000, 35 were hosted in the UK. In terms of the type of content, 81% were of children who appeared to be 10 and under; 4% were under 2; and 53% were levels 4 and 5, which are the rape and sexual torture of children.

Q35 Chair: Just before Peter Davies comes in, I have a couple of questions. You said one or two new images a week. That does not sound very many, given that previously we have been talking about millions and millions of images. These are just the same images being circulated round and round? You are not suggesting that only one or two new images are taken every week; it is just the ones that you happen to stumble across, is it?

Susie Hargreaves: Yes. The majority of images that our analysts see are images they have seen many, many times because images are recirculated. This is one of the issues that we try to get across, particularly in terms of young people’s behaviour on Sex Teen, is once an image is out there, it is out there for ever because it will just be recirculated and redistributed. What it means is that when we do see a new image, we can immediately work with the police to notify them, because if it is an unidentified child, we can say it is a new image and pass it on to the police.

Just also to clarify, our role is around the removal of content, and we pass on and share intelligence with the police, but we are very much not part of the police side of the work. We are not about the child protection side or the safeguarding of that child, or in fact the investigation of the perpetrators. But in terms of the new images, we see very few new images, but we see an awful lot of recycled images.

Q36 Chair: You said the best way of dealing with this is at source and that you talk to your sister organisations. But in the world where there is no equivalent of you, where people are likely to host this material, are the particular countries where it is hosted that you cannot get to?

Susie Hargreaves: There are 42 hotlines in 39 countries. The majority of them are in Europe and North America and Australia-those sort of countries. We are working with the Commonwealth and with ITU, the UN International Telecommunications Union, to look at ways in which we can provide a back-office solution for countries without a hotline where they are having increasing internet penetration to be able to report. We provide them with some support to do that, because what we are seeing, as John Carr talked about, is that as internet penetration grows in developing countries, people are starting to access these images.

In terms of where the content is hosted, about 50% of it is in North America-the US and Canada. We are seeing less content hosted in Russia than we saw in previous years. Patterns change slightly-we are seeing some emerging markets out in Asia, Cambodia, Vietnam-but the majority is hosted in the United States.

Q37 Chair: Yet the United States presumably has pretty tough laws about this, does it not?

Susie Hargreaves: One of the reasons we are so effective in the UK is because we self-regulate, so we do not have any mandatory powers to enforce internet companies to remove the content, but they do it on a voluntary basis, which means they can remove the content very quickly. In the States, internet companies are obliged to notify the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children-Peter will be able to answer this much better than I can-and they then have to go through a quite lengthy judicial process to have the content removed. That means that it takes a lot longer. Since we have been in operation, it used to take 20 days to remove the content in the US. It is now down to 10 days. We are working very closely with them. We now have permission to go directly to organisations that are members of ours and are based in the States and simultaneously to alert them to the fact that they are hosting content at the same time as we tell the police in the States. We are trying to bring that time down, but it is to do with the judicial system and how law enforcement works in the States, but I defer to Peter’s expertise on this.

Q38 Mr Bradshaw: You just implied that the speed of taking content down is part of the reason why a lot of it is hosted in the US. Did you mean to suggest that connection?

Susie Hargreaves: No, I do not mean to do that. The reason why a lot of it is hosted in the US is, first of all, that a lot of companies are based there. The internet industry is very big in the States. Also, there is all sorts of legislation around freedom of information and ability to host certain sites, which is to do with their judicial systems. But, Peter, you would probably answer that better.

Peter Davies: Chairman, thank you. Should I perhaps wind back to an introduction, if that is okay?

Chair: Yes, I think that would be helpful.

Peter Davies: But I will happily address any questions raised. I am grateful to Susie for leading off.

My name is Peter Davies. I am now the Director of CEOP, which is one of the four commands within the National Crime Agency, which commenced last Monday, 7 October. The CEOP centre has existed since 2006 and was previously affiliated to the Serious Organised Crime Agency. Our mission, whether as a centre or as a command, as we are now, is to protect children from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. When we were founded, there was heavy emphasis on online protection. Our remit does not limit us to online activity, but what we try to do is to become a national hub for intelligence, a national contact point and a source of expertise and specialist support on any aspect of child sexual exploitation that would benefit from that approach. We still have a very strong heritage and a very high level of expertise in child abuse imagery and other related forms of harm.

Our threat assessment, which is published every year, was most recently updated in June this year and in that we identified four key threats to which we address our minds, two of which are specific to online. One of those is the proliferation of indecent images of children. Images, as I am sure you will know, are a harm in themselves. They are scenes of crime. They are depictions and recordings of children being very seriously raped and sexually abused and the possession of these is a crime-and rightly so. The possession of these is also, as Claire Lilley referred to, quite a strong indicator of a sexual interest in children that also extends to physical abuse, and so anybody who possesses indecent images of children is a criminal, but is also somebody who might present an additional risk to children, as if that were not enough.

I can go back to talking about the overall level of prevalence, but I also want to highlight the other aspect of threat that we are very concerned about, which is what we call online child sexual exploitation. This is less well understood. I would not estimate the prevalence of it, but what we can say is that this appears to be an emerging trend of offending and its consequences for the victims extend to fatal consequences and are in many cases very severe. This is not so much about taking an interest in indecent images of children as about using the medium of the internet to contact, ruthlessly manipulate and exploit and sexually abuse children to the point of causing them physical and psychological harm, and in some cases pushing them towards suicide either because of the acts they have been compelled to do, or in some cases because they have carried out acts online that are then used to blackmail them for money-money they do not always have. So these are the two key areas of threat.

We have excellent relationships with a number of external bodies, including the Internet Watch Foundation, which I think is a world-leading organisation at doing what it does.

Our remit does not extend to all the issues that I know you are examining because we have to focus in. Everybody has a view about the risks associated, for example, with children accessing adult pornography online. We have to restrict our interest in that professionally to the extent to which it makes them more vulnerable as victims, or maybe increases the possibility that they will be offenders in future.

Turning to prevalence, on the second threat I referred to, online child sexual exploitation, we do not know and we would not pretend to know. We deal with a number of cases, and a growing number of cases, of increasing severity. The type of offending is hugely harmful and also complex to investigate because it necessitates no physical contact at all between the offender and the victim. It is not uncommon for us to encounter situations where offenders in one country will target and harvest victims in a completely different part of the world. The complexities that presents are obvious. But we do not know how much is going on and it is in the nature of any form of child sexual abuse or exploitation that it will be under-reported by the victims because the whole process is designed to minimise the risk that they will report and designed to induce shame and embarrassment and all the things that might stop a young or vulnerable person coming forward and saying what has happened to them.

Q39 Chair: Where is it principally happening? Is it Facebook?

Peter Davies: It is important to identify that what we are trying to tackle is appalling aspects of human behaviour, to some extent facilitated by the internet. At the moment we are seeing roughly half of this kind of activity-online child sexual exploitation-taking place through social networking sites. Of course Facebook is a major one, but not the only one. We are also seeing it taking place through chat environments and other forums. But it is important to realise, as I think John Carr said previously, that the medium is not to blame. The medium might be managed better so that it is safer for its users, but what is to blame is human behaviour, albeit through the internet amplified, multiplied and in some cases almost industrialised to a quite remarkable degree.

In terms of the proliferation of indecent images of children, we are a little bit clearer about this. I would not estimate a total number of indecent images circulating on the internet; I would not estimate the number that are duplicates or unique. I would probably observe that regrettably there are more now than when you started sitting this morning and that is one of the major challenges that we have. You don’t need me to explain what has to happen for an image to be created.

Q40 Chair: That does not quite equate with the one or two new ones a week, if you see what I mean.

Peter Davies: Our experience is different, because of course we are a different organisation and we receive reports through different routes. It is absolutely true to say that the majority of images that we encounter are repeats. I do not have a figure on the proportion that are new, but a lot of our investigations are not so much into the images themselves but into the child abuse they portray or the child abuse that they give us an opportunity to interdict, and so it is understandable that we may not come up with the same figure. As I say, I would not estimate the total number circulating. There are always more being produced and obviously that again is a harm in itself.

Where we have got somewhere as a centre over the last two years is getting a sense of how many offenders there are in the UK, and I think John Carr has already referred to this. In our thematic assessment published in June, we estimated that there may be around-I use that term carefully-50,000 people in the UK who commit offences at least to the level of possessing indecent images of children, which is quite a stark figure to contemplate. But I am firmly of the view that it is not enough to deal with a handful of cases-and deal with them well, which I believe CEOP and our colleagues in law enforcement, supported by our partners, do-but have a sense of the overall scope of the problem, because it is that sense of the overall scope that drives a lot of other people who can help to want to do something as well.

I would echo roughly what Susie says about the trends in images. We check trends in images every year and our experience recently has been that the victims appear to be getting younger and younger and the level of abuse portrayed appears to be getting worse and worse. So there is no comfort in any of these aspects of our analysis.

In terms of reporting, if I may just cue in based on Susie’s point, we do receive reports from the Internet Watch Foundation. We have a very clear service level agreement and we are looking to revise and update that into a collaboration agreement very shortly. We are keen to work together with the IWF every step of the way. We also have partnerships with other organisations that report incidents to us, the most high-volume one being the one that Susie referred to, which is the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in the United States, from whom we receive on average maybe 800 reports per month. We also have reports from UK organisations including, very importantly, the IWF. We are also available for any member of the public who wishes to report any concerns to us online. That public reporting has probably doubled in volume over the last year or year and a half, and we generally expect 300-plus reports into CEOP online from the public every month about incidents of concern.

Susie Hargreaves: Mr Chairman, could I clarify the issue around the number of new images? When we talk about new images, it might be a series of images, but you have to remember that that means two new children who have been sexually abused. So it is not just an image, it is two new children who have been sexually abused in itself, and it will be the worst of the worst stuff.

Also, I just wanted to say there is a lot of information out there about potentially how many images there are and of course it is a changing field from day to day, but I do think there is still a need for some very robust research. I would certainly echo what Claire was saying earlier on. Although we have the UKCCIS board, of which we are both members, that is very much around the whole field of child internet safety and online protection. In the field of online child sexual abuse content, we do need a kind of high-level strategic thinking body to get together a couple of times a year to start to share that high level of intelligence. It only works in the UK because we work in partnership and all do our specific bits, but it is really important that we understand the whole and the context.

Q41 Mr Bradshaw: If most of this content is being generated in the States, who are these children? Have they been-

Susie Hargreaves: Sorry, could I clarify? It is not necessarily generated in the States; it is hosted in the States.

Peter Davies: If I can help, the process by which it is identified is a specific piece of legislation that exists in the United States called the Protect Our Children Act 2008. It places an obligation on communications and internet service providers to identify and report to NCMEC, the National Center, incidents that appear to depict child sexual exploitation. There is a piece of legislation in the States that places this obligation and it is in the discharge of that obligation that they report everything-well, the performance varies, but they report things to the National Center and the National Center identifies the location of these through internet protocol addresses and so on. What we receive in the UK is effectively, for want of a better expression, the UK slice of all that which is reported to the National Center.

Q42 Mr Bradshaw: So where is it being generated? Who are these children? Have they been kidnapped? Are they within families?

Peter Davies: It is hard to tell. There is one more thing I could add. There are very few internet transactions that we can do that do not travel through more than one country, and because a great deal of the internet is hosted or serviced in some way in the United States, that is why this piece of legislation is so powerful. It may well be that it is a UK individual sending to a friend an indecent image of a child, but because of the way that the internet works, it passes through the US. Depending on the extent to which the service providers are attentive and surveil these things, that is where it might get picked up.

Q43 Chair: IWF, you have been talking about content hosted on websites that people can access. You have just mentioned direct peer to peer. Is it possible to give us a rough estimate of what proportion is done peer to peer and what proportion is done through a website?

Peter Davies: Yes, it is. We do not share all the information we have or the means by which we acquire it, for reasons I am sure you will understand, but our estimation is that the highest volume of offenders is in the peer-to-peer category, which means they are not offending on the open internet. They are in groups of people whom they know, or think they know, and they have an increased level of trust and confidence that within those groups they can share child abuse imagery, child abuse material and so on. So the highest volume of offenders is in the peer-to-peer area.

There are offenders who use what is called the hidden internet, also known as Tor or The Onion Router or something similar. This is harder to penetrate, but I believe not impossible. These offenders are far fewer in number. The issue with them is they quite possibly pose the most serious risk because they are technically sophisticated and some of the harm that we see taking place in that part of the internet is some of the worst that we see.

Q44 Chair: And Tor, do I need a computer science degree to use it? I know you cannot find-

Peter Davies: Absolutely. I do not want to advertise it, but it is possible to download it and start using it on a normal home computer. It was designed by the US Navy in the 1980s, I believe, and released to the world. Some of our most sophisticated offenders use Tor. It is also important to realise that some other serious organised criminals use Tor as well. People may be aware of the arrest of somebody who was the proprietor of something called The Silk Road, so Tor is also used for drugs distribution, distribution of other criminal materials and obviously communication between criminal groups.

Q45 Steve Rotheram: IWF and CEOP have demonstrably been successful, if we have gone from a fairly high proportion of the images being generated in the UK to 1%. That in itself is a success rate. However, behind each of these individual images there is a victim. How successful are the police in pursuing the perpetrators of the crime against the child who has ended up on the internet?

Peter Davies: An excellent question, and I am not going to be able to provide a simple answer. As a centre and as a command, CEOP is getting more successful year by year in converting the intelligence that is derivable from the internet into outcomes in terms of safeguarding children. Last year we put out more intelligence packages than ever to law enforcement and also to children’s services in the UK, precisely with that intent. It is also important to highlight that within police forces there are very often technically proficient and committed online child protection units, so it is not as if CEOP is the only UK law enforcement asset in this area. The larger forces, particularly, often have real experts doing great work.

I think we are in a transitional phase at the moment where we need to understand better what the overall capability and capacity is of the whole of UK law enforcement in order to tackle this kind of offending, and there is a plan in place to do that. We do not have the sufficiently high-quality robust data for me to give you proper arrest figures and things like that, and I can only really tell you at the moment that which gets reported back to CEOP. Again, there is a plan to improve and develop that because I think it is important for me, or the person sitting in my chair, to have a really good answer to that question and to be able to provide it for you. My observation is that there is a lot more law enforcement activity going on than it is possible to capture at the present time. This is something that HM Inspectorate of Constabulary has picked up on and noticed, and is working on.

John Carr has a way of putting things very simply and of course if there are 50,000 offenders out there and they are detectable, we should not really be resting until they have been detected. What we have to do in the face of a gap between provision and what we would like to do is prioritise, and that is what law enforcement and others charged with public safety always do. What we try to do is prioritise the people who do pose the highest risk to children by bringing in risk factors that help us identify them. We focus on the worst offenders-the people who are at the heart of networks that cause greater harm-so numbers are not the whole story; it is the seriousness and the numbers put together. The best evidence of whether we are arresting the right people of those that we can arrest is the number of children who are safeguarded as a consequence. I can tell you that in the annual report that we published in May this year, it was very clear that we are getting more successful than ever at doing the most important thing I think we can do, which is safeguarding children who are at serious risk.

Q46 Steve Rotheram: Is there any way that we can quantify that? While I absolutely accept the success of taking down images and the fact that it is demonstrably and obviously a criminal act to distribute the images, surely identifying the poor child-the individual who has been exploited-should be the primary concern.

Peter Davies: Absolutely, it is.

Q47 Steve Rotheram: Do you work with international law enforcement agencies? If we can identify an image that might not have been taken in the UK but might have been taken outside, do we still pursue that outside of our boundaries?

Peter Davies: Very much so, apologies. We have a victim identification unit in CEOP that has huge expertise in looking at images and looking for clues within them about how to track back to the child. This was a specialist unit that was featured relatively recently on Crimewatch, for example.

We always seek to cultivate the best possible relationships with law enforcement partners in other countries. CEOP was a founding member, and is still a board and management member, of an organisation called the Virtual Global Taskforce, which now comprises eight different countries from around the world. Well below that strategic level, there are really good relationships, and indeed technically facilitated virtual private networks that enable, for example, my victim identification team to deal directly with colleagues around the world.

Some of our best successes have been quite remarkable regarding the speed with which we have received intelligence on UK activity from another country. We have seen opportunities to identify where that is taking place from the image and we have dealt effectively with the local police force concerned. There are occasions within my time at CEOP where that whole process from end to end has taken less than a day, and as a result children who were definitely at serious risk have been safeguarded and offenders arrested. That is the ideal. That is what we would like to happen every day. It is in the nature of the fluidity of these things and the complexity of international relationships that that does not always work, but it works sufficiently often to make us believe that it is worth pressing on with that. There is no occasion when we would not share information with law enforcement elsewhere that might give them the opportunity to do the right thing in their country as well.

Susie Hargreaves: We work also in the field of victim identification. We work very closely with CEOP; we are trained by CEOP. When our analysts see a new child, they look for particular clues within the picture and do some analysis of those new children. As a result, we also work very closely with international law enforcement-with Interpol; with Europol; with international locally-based law enforcement-and certainly through our work over the last three years, 12 children have been rescued. There are statistics that we can show in relation to rescuing children. It is about a partnership approach, but very much working very closely with law enforcement on an international level.

Q48 Steve Rotheram: Are there any changes that either organisation would like to see to either the law in this country or international law that would help you to do your jobs better?

Peter Davies: Yes. In terms of international law, we need to start from the point of recognition that the UK has just about the best suite of child protection legislation that there is, and that we are more of an example to others than we are in need of catching up. But when you are in the business of child protection, that gives you no cause for complacency, but it is important to note at a Committee such as this. There are two conventions, details of which I would rather supply separately, but they are the Budapest Convention and the Lanzarote Convention. One is mainly about online matters and one is about child protection. My sense is that if countries sign up to and work up to both these conventions combined, that provides probably the highest straightforward level of assurance you can have that they will be equipping themselves to protect children online.

Turning to the UK, it is quite remarkable to me how far the criminal legislation, for example, around indecent images of children, which was, I believe, conceived and passed before the internet was around, has still pretty much stood up to the new world of child abuse online, and I do not think what we need is a basic root-and-branch piece of work. It is my firm operational view, and I have articulated it previously, that if there is one piece of legislation that would most help us tackle online child abuse, it would be the provision of a clear, consistent and properly enforced regime for retaining and accessing communications data, because we are regularly in a situation where we are unable to convert, for example, an IP address into a name and address for lack of that precise thing. I appreciate that it has been under consideration. I am merely repeating an operational view that I have articulated previously.

Q49 Chair: You can get a court order to get an ISP to divulge the address.

Peter Davies: It is possible. The issue is that it is not always an ISP; it can be a communication service provider. They are sometimes configured differently. My experience is that some are more able to provide the information we need than others, and when this legislation was under debate a little while ago, I took the view that our general attrition rate-the proportion of questions we would like an answer to that we do not get-is roughly 25%. Now, if you are dealing with a repeat victim or repeat offender, there are ways of getting around some of those, but it is implicit in that missing 25% that there will be lost opportunities for us to do the right thing. At the expense of sounding repetitive, I still think that is the most important single piece of legislation that would be of assistance to us.

Susie Hargreaves: Three things, if I may. One is that we do have some of the most robust legislation in the world in the field of child sexual abuse online, and certainly this is one of the reasons why we are setting up a back-office solution for countries without a hotline, because we will assess it under UK law and it means that it will be dealt with very thoroughly. So on that front, we do not feel that we need new legislation.

What we do feel though is that it is very important that people do not conflate the two issues between people accessing criminal content, which is what we deal with, and young people’s access to adult content, and this is not particularly helpful. Certainly within Westminster, the issues need to be kept totally separate. Where, as a citizen and a mother, I might care that my teenager has access to adult content, it is entirely different to anybody having access to criminal content. We need to keep these very separate. We also need to have an awareness that we are a world model in relation to the internet industry support for the IWF, and in terms of the internet industry’s commitment to support the removal of child sexual abuse content. They are currently working with us on a membership review to look at ways that they can step up that support, and it is being done in a very positive frame of mind, and certainly it is one in which the industry does take its role very seriously. We only exist because of the industry.

The third thing I just wanted to say was that in relation to tackling this, it is our experience that young men aged between 18 and 25 are the most likely to stumble across it in the first place, and they will do that through the open internet, not through peer-to-peer networks. Because it is such a huge issue, we need to do much more to raise people’s awareness to report and do the right thing, and to know that it is wrong. It is not just a question of looking at an image; it is a child who has been sexually abused. It is criminal. The consequences of looking at it are potentially extremely serious for everyone concerned, so it is to raise awareness to stop people going there in the first place.

Q50 Mr Sutcliffe: As a Home Office Minister in 2006, I visited CEOP under the leadership of Jim Gamble and, as you quite rightly said, Peter, it was set up as a unit because there seemed to be no consistency of approach across the 42 forces in relation to this issue. Seven years later, with all the experience that CEOP has gained, is the incorporation of CEOP into the National Crime Agency a good thing or a bad thing?

Peter Davies: I think it is absolutely a good thing. You will no doubt have followed our progress in the meantime and be aware that when I came in three years ago, it was very much a major issue. Since then, we have set about the business of contributing to the construction of the National Crime Agency, and also to making sure that we were absolutely able to dock into it effectively. There are a number of different aspects that I can offer up as evidence that it is a good thing, but the simple answer is, "Yes, absolutely no question." However, may I just offer one or two examples none the less?

Firstly, SOCA, and therefore CEOP, when you visited us, were never subject to a piece of legislation called the Children Act 2004, which places an obligation on public bodies-and others where appropriate-to have regard to the safeguarding and welfare of children in all their activities. Every police force was subject to that expectation, but not SOCA and therefore not CEOP. The new National Crime Agency has asked to be and is subject to that obligation, and I can tell you, as the Director of the CEOP command, that is influencing not just how we do the work that CEOP has traditionally done, but also influencing the way that the Agency thinks about the interests of children in its other activities, and that is quite a significant difference.

During the time I have been Chief Executive and now Director, the resources and the number of people available to do CEOP’s work have increased, and that increase will continue into the NCA. There are aspects of what we have been doing in the past that are a major test of resilience, and the NCA is taking on some of those aspects in order precisely to help to take some of the load that that creates. The alternative is, as we have had to do in the past, that we have to move people from other parts of CEOP to support some of these functions, which is not the best use of their time.

Another major gain is that it is not just about CEOP any more. Our mission is shared by the whole National Crime Agency and the structure of the agency is such that where the intelligence is sufficiently compelling and where the balance of risk dictates, the NCA can mobilise 2,000 of its own law enforcement officers to carry out operations to do with child sexual exploitation. One of the first tasks, other than set up the agency, that its Director General, Keith Bristow, was asked to do was to conduct a further investigation into child abuse at the Bryn Estyn children’s home in north Wales, which was an operation carried out under the operational name Pallial, and there have been a number of releases of information and updates about that.

I could go on, but all those things point to the NCA being the right place for CEOP to be, and also to the major gain that it is not just about CEOP against the world-we are part of an agency that shares our objectives and ethos, and that is keen to help.

Q51 Mr Sutcliffe: I am heartened by that, because clearly it was a high-profile agency when it was set up, but what you are saying now is, with maturity, it is now back within the family, if you like. That then leads me on to the relationships with police forces in terms of whether CEOP just seen as, "You refer everything to CEOP," or do forces actively deal with this as an issue in their parameters?

Peter Davies: I think forces have actively dealt with this for a long time. It has not always been fully acknowledged. I myself, before I came to CEOP, was involved in a major crime inquiry to do with a news group permitting the sharing of indecent images online, which we did in partnership with CEOP, but that was a local police force doing the right thing, and there is a fair bit of that going on.

Another aspect of the agency, which we have to approach with caution, is that ultimately it has a responsibility not just to manage how it uses its own 4,500 officers, but for making sure that the collective efforts of UK law enforcement deal with the risk in the most efficient and effective way possible. There is no big problem there, because we experience very good relationships with police forces. We co-operate very well, we try to find the right balance of resources so they can do what they do best and we can support them, or sometimes co-ordinate them-or very occasionally lead them, as appropriate. So the picture was never that bleak.

My experience, more anecdotal than out of certainty-refer to my previous answer-is that police forces are investing in the skills to do this area of work. Where I am less clear and less well able to answer with the accuracy I would like is on exactly how much capacity is invested in this across those 42 forces, the extent to which it looks similar and the extent that it can be interoperable, which means that officers from one force use the same systems and have the same approach as officers from another and can easily work together when possible. We have a plan for how we are going to learn that. The architecture of the NCA allows us to pursue that sense of national consistency in a way we were never able to do before, and that is another significant gain.

Q52 Mr Sutcliffe: May I just follow that through because when I have briefings from our local police forces about what goes on within their force, it is about robberies or a variety of different things that are there, but this never gets reported, in the sense that they do not tell me about what work they are doing in this area. What I am slightly worried about is how we get-because a lot of this is about education and making sure that people understand the nature of this crime-the information out there? What are the mechanisms for raising the awareness of those forces to raise awareness within their communities?

Peter Davies: Yes. I think there is a whole variety of things. You may have seen when you visited CEOP that we have an education team and we have a very strong internet presence. We have a website to which the public are more than welcome to get advice and to access materials. We also have a network of ambassadors and volunteers, and we create new education packages every year with the intention that our ambassadors and volunteers can convey them to children. This is a real success story for CEOP, because out of a team of maybe three or four people, we manage to reach over 2.5 million children a year directly in a structured classroom or similar setting.

Our website regularly attracts more than a quarter of a million unique visitors per month and recently, when we did an information campaign about online child sexual exploitation, the number of people coming to our website was higher than it has ever been before. Of course, there is always a gap, and there are far more children out there who receive the message. This is one of the success stories, and we engage with any police force that wants to, in the same way as we engage with teachers or others to use the materials and take them out.

In terms of what police people talk about as their priorities, which is another aspect of what you were saying, I genuinely believe that child protection-online and offline-has never been closer to the mainstream of law enforcement in the UK than it is now. The police service has always been populated by experts-hugely passionate, committed people who make immense sacrifices to do the work that they do. But it is not just that. It is inescapable for police forces to have noticed the increased number of cases of what is called street grooming or localised grooming, another form of child sexual exploitation. There is a national policing plan in place to make sure every force has the proper capability and capacity to deal with that, and I am involved in overseeing the delivery of that, but that plan comes from Chief Constables and is being implemented by local Chief Constables, supported by their PCCs. This is an interesting area, because it is quite technically difficult and it requires a lot of innovation and flexibility and quite a lot of expertise to get. Generally speaking, law enforcement does not lack that, but keeping up with internet-enabled crime is always going to be a challenge.

I look forward to the day-I do not think it is far off-when police people talk just as much about the child sexual exploitation operations they are doing and what a great result they had safeguarding children through an online inquiry as they would be talking about armed robbery and so on. Probably, in some police forces, we are already there.

Q53 Tracey Crouch: A lot of my questions have already been asked, but could I just ask: do you think that the social media providers could do more to help combat illegal behaviour?

Susie Hargreaves: I would say that all the internet industry regardless of social media-search engines, ISPs, mobile operators-are all extremely aware of their responsibilities in the field. We work very closely with all of them. Following the Secretary of State’s summit earlier in the summer, we were asked to look at proactively seeking content in the future, which means we will be the first hotline in the world with the powers to do that, and that will mean we will need many more analysts. In order to support that, we have been working with the internet industry to look at ways that they will adjust their fees accordingly. We are in the middle of some very, very positive discussions and everybody has stepped up. In terms of their responsibility generally, I think all of them are really aware of what their responsibilities are and they are all doing what they can.

Certainly, I speak regularly at child online protection conferences and safety conferences, and you will have Facebook and Twitter there, and you will have those organisations talking about what they are doing to address the problem. I think they are aware-there are always things that all of us could do-of what they need to do and they are stepping up. But it is very much a group approach and a partnership approach, and in the same way as the police cannot solve it on their own and we cannot solve it on our own, we all have the responsibility to solve it. Facebook can do so much, but people also have to adjust their behaviour and so the education and awareness side is absolutely crucial-young people knowing how to protect themselves online. All these messages are really important, and that is part of our partnership in terms of the Safer Internet Centre with Childnet International, which goes out to schools and do all the awareness raising, and South West Grid for Learning, which gives support to professionals in terms of making sure that people can keep themselves safe. It is part of the overall picture, so I do not think it is enough just to say that one organisation needs to do more. Collectively, we all need to do more.

Q54 Tracey Crouch: Do you have support networks in place for your staff because this is pretty horrific stuff?

Susie Hargreaves: Yes, we do. We are currently recruiting for seven analysts, and we go through a very intensive recruitment process. We have a three-stage interview that culminates in them having a session where they see some of the images. We have quite a good dropout rate at that level. Anybody who sees any of our images has very intensive training. They cannot work on their own for six months-well, no one can ever work on their own, but they cannot take assessments without a second person looking at their work for six months. They have mandatory monthly counselling, mandatory group counselling on a quarterly basis and an annual psychological assessment. So we do an awful lot on the welfare front, because obviously it is a real worry to us because they are looking at this content all day.

Of course, the public report to us stuff that is outside our remit and they still have to look at it. Sometimes they might look at something-they have to open a video to have a look at it-and it might be something very distressing, but is kind of outside of our remit, so that is the stuff that takes them by surprise. Yes, they are constantly seeing really very, very distressing stuff, but they are the most incredibly sane group of people and they do it because they are very committed to the issue. Certainly, when we rescue a child or we are involved in the rescue of a child, it is the greatest feeling in the world, and they do it because of their commitment. But we do protect them, yes.

Q55 Tracey Crouch: I assume it is the same at CEOP as well?

Peter Davies: Yes. I feel like saying, "What she said," but that is not quite adequate. We have a very similar approach. People are psychologically assessed before they start at CEOP, regardless of what job they are doing. That is refreshed on a basis that is proportionate to the level of exposure they have to material. It is really important that people have an exit strategy if it just becomes too much for them, and that is one of the huge virtues of CEOP being part of a larger organisation. People do not have to leave and find a new job; they can simply transfer to a different kind of duty, and that way they can move on and develop professionally, and continue to contribute in some other way to public safety.

We also have compared our provision with provision in similar law enforcement units around the world because-I am sure Susie would say the same-only absolutely the best is good enough in terms of taking care of our people. They do an exceptional job that most people would understandably shy away from, and we should be thankful that they are there to do it.

Susie Hargreaves: Absolutely.

Q56 Tracey Crouch: My very final question is probably relevant to you, Mr Davies. I have recently been doing quite a lot of work on modern-day slavery and saw quite a shocking statistic for someone who represents a south-eastern constituency: 49% of all instances of modern-day slavery are in the south-east. Are you able to give a figure as to perhaps what percentage or what proportion of modern-day slavery would be related to some sort of child sexual exploitation?

Peter Davies: I can give you a rough figure. Of course, as with all these things, it is based on that part of it that we can see, and while I may be getting it wrong by a few per cent, we would be looking at maybe 15% to 20% of human trafficking, which is probably our previous definition of what we now call modern-day slavery, to have a sexual exploitation element. Of course, some exploitation or slavery has more than one dimension to it and there is an overlap. We have dealt in the past with child trafficking cases.

There are other parts of the National Crime Agency, including the UK Human Trafficking Centre, which has a specific lead on that and is part of the Organised Crime Command, which is one of the other commands in the agency. More generally, our view is that we want to support those efforts precisely because the element of it that is child sexual exploitation is not the majority of it. There are a number of other factors to it: forced labour; street crime; organ harvesting; relationship abuse; domestic servitude. All those need to be taken into account, so the issue of modern-day slavery is something where we would like to support national efforts on it, but where we do not own it, and that is where I think it should be.

Q57 Tracey Crouch: So you would welcome the Government’s intention, albeit it is very early days, of bringing in a piece of legislation that will help to give you those resources?

Peter Davies: I am not familiar with the proposed piece of legislation.

Tracey Crouch: Not yet, but it is an intention.

Peter Davies: From an operational point of view, I welcome the intention to take a very serious look at this issue and to do more, because within that thing that we call modern-day slavery are some of the most vulnerable people in this country, in desperate need of rescue-some will be children, some will not-by a law enforcement officer, not just a child protection person. Those people need help, so anything that puts the spotlight on that, and that challenges us to do better and do our best at that, is welcome to me.

Q58 Chair: Can I just ask you a couple of quick questions? Reference has been made to your comments about how you had identified 50,000 to 60,000 individuals but you just did not have the resources to arrest them all. Can you give us an indication of how far short your resources fall from being able to pursue all those leads?

Peter Davies: It is not just our resources; it is everything. This is an extremely large body of offenders and we have never been able to attach a number in which we had sufficient faith to that body of offenders before this year. I am told that there are a total of 85,000 prison places in the UK, and that gives you some indication of what would happen if we got up one morning and arrested all these people.

Q59 Chair: Is it at 5% or 10% you are able to-

Peter Davies: To be honest with you, I am really not able to tell you at the moment. One of the things we are doing as a command within the NCA, and obviously with the support of our colleagues in NCA and so on, is to identify how many of those people we can take on, but to have a plan for what we would do with the rest as well. Because I meant what John quoted me on, if I could, I would arrest all 50,000 of them, and I think that is what people would like. But it is not just about law enforcement capacity; it is technical capacity, the courts, the prison system and the child protection system. None of this is resourced for a volume of offences of that nature, which means that we need a plan that goes beyond enforcement.

The truth is that for most high-volume or serious crime, you have to have a strategy that goes beyond enforcing it. You cannot enforce your way out of it, which is why our partnerships with the IWF and others, our work with industry to make the internet a tougher place to commit crime and our work with children to make sure they are less vulnerable to this kind of criminality all matters, because it is an issue for society as a whole and the solutions lie in lots of different places. Our contribution is to be absolutely focused in pursuing the worst of the worst-pursuing as many as possible within the obvious resource constraints that the whole of UK law enforcement has.

Q60 Chair: Can I just follow up your point about pursuing the worst of the worst? Susie Hargreaves rightly warned us to distinguish between material that is illegal and extreme and material that is not illegal but should be viewed only by adults. John Carr was suggesting that the police should be taking advantage of the Perrin judgment to pursue websites that are hosting adult content and taking insufficient measures to protect their content from being viewed by minors. That is a whole new area of operation. Would you have sympathy with the idea that the police should also be looking at that, or is your view that we should just concentrate on the really bad stuff?

Peter Davies: I do not think I entirely caught that part of his evidence. We have to prioritise. In law enforcement-in public protection-we have to prioritise every day. That is a simple fact of life. Anybody who suggests that you do not have to and that anybody has enough resources to do everything you would like to do is not unfortunately in the same world as the one I occupy. In terms of priorities, I would view the existence of child abuse imagery, with all the harms that it brings, and the existence of online child sexual exploitation, as a higher priority in terms of protecting the public than seeking to stop people who are below a certain age accessing things that we think are inappropriate for them. I make no apology for considering that as a priority. I am not entirely sure that John was suggesting that that is an area of work the police should get seriously into, but I was not here to hear his evidence.

I would certainly sympathise with the idea that given that it may not be something that law enforcement is necessarily able to prioritise, or that CEOP would prioritise, that somebody somewhere, if they are sufficiently concerned about that as a source of harm and have the ability to do something about it, should certainly do something about it. It may well be that age verification or active verification by the organisations that benefit from these people using their services is a way forward.

Chair: I think that is all we have. Can I thank the two of you very much for coming this morning?

Peter Davies: Thank you very much.

Prepared 18th March 2014