Policing for the future Contents

4Child sexual abuse


78.One of the key themes emerging from the evidence—particularly from PCCs and police forces—was the growth in demand on policing from child sexual abuse (CSA), particularly online. Although a substantial proportion of child abuse takes place in a familial setting, online CSA poses new challenges for police forces, and witnesses spoke about the lack of technological solutions available. In September, the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, said that “Keeping our children safe will be my mission as Home Secretary”, revealing NCA estimates that 80,000 people in the UK present some form of sexual threat to children online.115 Mr Javid announced:

Prevalence and trends

79.Police-recorded crime figures are testament to the increased willingness of victims of child sexual abuse to come forward to the authorities, as well as enhanced levels of awareness among the public more widely.117 The number of CSA offences recorded by the police increased by 178% between the years ending March 2007 and March 2017, including a 187% increase in recorded rapes of girls under the age of 13, a 355% increase in rapes of boys under 13, and a 511% increase in the abuse of children through sexual exploitation.118 The latest statistics show a particularly sharp increase in a number of specific CSA offences recorded in the last five years, including a staggering twelve-fold (1,086%) increase in sexual grooming.119

80.Despite this substantial growth in reporting and recording, witnesses suggested to us that current levels of police-recorded CSA still represent a small proportion of offences. Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the NPCC’s Lead for child protection, said: “I cannot help but think there will still be a generation of children that still are ashamed, have been told they will not be believed, and are still not coming forward. I genuinely think we are still only seeing the tip of the iceberg”.120 Cassandra Harrison, Director of the Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse, told us that researchers have estimated that around 5% of boys and 15% of girls will experience sexual abuse during childhood,121 and a self-report survey of adults conducted during the Crime Survey for England of Wales (year ending March 2016) found that one in five had experienced some form of abuse as a child. Only 7% reported their abuse to the police, and 74% did not tell anyone about the abuse at the time it occurred.122

81.Our evidence session focused largely on contemporary CSA online, including the dissemination and viewing of indecent images of children, but we note that non-recent allegations also represent an area of growing demand on policing. Chief Constable Bailey said that 125 victims per month are approaching Operation Hydrant, an NPCC “coordination hub” set up in 2014 to oversee the police response to non-recent allegations of CSA. There are now “getting towards 6,000 victims within our database and only 4,500 alleged offenders”, which is generating “significant demand across policing”.123

The prevalence and impact of online CSA

82.The evidence we received suggests that the internet has played a dominant role in the increased demand on policing from CSA, and not just from offending committed entirely online. Will Kerr, Director of Vulnerabilities at the NCA, said that it is “increasingly difficult to neatly disaggregate” online and offline offending, and that “the lines have become blurred”, adding:

For livestreaming, you can have three or four different types of offences being committed at once, both the making and the sharing and the distribution of indecent images of children or the live abuse of children. You have contact offending, because a child has been abused, very often in countries like the Philippines or Thailand or Cambodia. You have contact abuse by proxy, by an offender who might be sitting in a town in the United Kingdom and paying for that terrible service.124

Mr Kerr suggested that three principal factors underlie the growth in CSA: global technology, including networks and other new opportunities; anonymisation and encryption, making it harder for the police to catch offenders; and changes to victims’ behaviour, with young people spending more time online and being “socialised and sexualised” there.125

83.The distribution, dissemination and downloading of indecent images of children (IIOC) accounts for a significant proportion of the police and NCA workload from CSA, and has been described by the NPSCC as a “social emergency”.126 The UK is reportedly the third-largest global consumer of child abuse images, behind the USA and Canada,127 and Chief Constable Bailey told us that the police are “arresting getting on towards 450 men every month and safeguarding almost 700 children” in relation to IIOC alone.128 Between December 2010 and 2017, there was an 1,239% increase in the total number of industry referrals received by the NCA (for example, IIOC found by internet companies on their platforms), and a 102% increase in the number of public reports. This includes criminal behaviour online, as well as indecent images.129

84.As part of our data collection exercise, we asked forces for figures on the number of IIOC incidents recorded locally in the year ending March 2018, as well as the four years previously. When City of London Police’s nominal figures were eliminated, the other forces reported an average increase of 508% between 2013–14 and 2017–18, including notable increases of 1,544% in Durham, 1,954% in Northamptonshire (increasing from 13 to 267), and 916% in Cleveland. Across all forces, the total number of recorded IIOC incidents increased by 424%.

85.Very little is known about the characteristics of online CSA offenders—or about child sex offenders more broadly—but research suggests that between 16% and 50% will go on to commit contact offences,130,131 raising serious questions about the risk to children if CSA offenders continue to have contact with children, either in the family, at work, or as a result of roles within the community. Even these figures may not be reliable, however: Cassandra Harrison told us that research on the relationship between IIOC and contact offending had been contested.132 Regardless of subsequent offending behaviour, it is clear that IIOC offences are serious forms of child abuse in their own right. The NPSCC described the impact on victims in a 2016 report on online CSA images:

The child depicted in the image is a real person who is a victim. And each time an image is accessed there is re-victimisation, violation and degradation. The knowledge that their image can be repeatedly viewed and may never be removed contributes to the on-going trauma that victims face. There is evidence to suggest that fear of people viewing the content can prevent the victim from speaking out about their experiences and seeking help.133

86.The growth of online indecent images of children (IIOC) is one of the most disturbing by-products of the digital age. Its impact on victims is devastating and long-lasting, so we were shocked by how little is known about IIOC offenders. We welcome the Government’s recent announcement of funding for collaboration with child protection organisations, to increase understanding of offender behaviour and prevent future offending. This must seek to identify the key characteristics of online CSA offenders, risk factors for viewing IIOC, the effectiveness of current child protection measures, including the Disclosure and Barring Service, and the likely success of preventative measures to educate young people at an early stage about the impact of this crime on its victims.

The police response to online CSA

87.Across the UK, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) within the NCA coordinates activity against the proliferation of IIOC, online CSA, the sexual exploitation of children overseas by UK nationals, and contact child sexual abuse. CEOP will take primacy in an investigation when a national response is deemed necessary, including “severe and complex cases”, cases requiring the application of “niche capabilities”, cases covering multiple police force areas or with a significant international element, or those in which there are indications of an organised criminal network involved in contact abuse. Local police forces investigate cases disseminated to them by CEOP when the offender is identified as residing in their force area, and/or undertake child safeguarding activity when a victim has been identified.134

88.A HMIC report on online CSA, published in 2015, found that the police response to child victims of online sexual exploitation required improvement. Forces were in some cases administering cautions to offenders for online CSE, which was “cause for concern, particularly in the absence of effective supervision and scrutiny arrangements within the force”. All the forces inspected were experiencing varying delays to investigations, with backlogs in the analysis of media devices (such as mobile phones and laptops), and offenders released on bail pending the results of analysis, risking further harm to children.135 Commissioner Dick told us in June that she was “deeply concerned about the exponential rises in digital data and the impact that that is having”, adding that the Metropolitan Police sees a “doubling of data that we have to deal with” every 18 months.136

89.The inspectorate has conducted further thematic inspections of individual forces’ child protection work, including quarterly reports on the Metropolitan Police, following serious failings identified in 2016. Its latest report (published in February) found some improvements, but identified significant issues relating to the investigation of IIOC offences. HMICFRS expressed concern about IIOC cases in which there are children present in the suspect’s home, which “now go to an already overburdened child abuse investigation team (CAIT)”. As a result of the CAIT’s lack of capacity, some of these cases were being passed to borough crime investigation departments (CID). There, they were investigated by officers with no specialist training, who were supervised by managers “with limited knowledge of the work and who are unable to offer investigative advice or set parameters in limiting the quantities of indecent images viewed by the officers”.

90.The inspectorate also found “Untrained, inexperienced borough officers” investigating medium- and high-risk cases (in which there were children in the family); meanwhile, the Met’s specialist officers working on Operation Bellona—a proactive investigation into the sharing and distribution of IIOC—were investigating low-level, low-risk cases.137 Perhaps most damningly, delays to child protection work meant that IIOC suspects were able to continue accessing children, including those in their own home, after images had been identified. It recommended that staff in boroughs and specialist directorates should be “appropriately trained to carry out their duties”, and that the Met should review the procedures and identified aggravating factors for IIOC cases.138

91.In August, another one of HMICFRS’s force-level child protection inspections hit the news headlines as a result of backlogs in checks on sex offenders who pose a risk to children. The inspectorate found that Merseyside Police had a 100:1 ratio of registered sex offenders (RSOs) to offender managers—approximately double the “reasonable” caseload—and the force had 98 overdue visits to RSOs, including those assessed as high risk. In addition, staff within the force’s ‘Abusive Images Unit’ were regularly releasing suspects from bail before there were enforceable restrictions in place to limit their access to children.139 Inspector Matt Parr reportedly responded that officers were often “playing catch-up and couldn’t prioritise preventative work”, adding that neighbourhood policing teams were often “unaware of sex offenders living in their communities”.140

Skills and training

92.Evidence suggests that forces have been delayed in upskilling their officers to deal with online CSA. Research published by Middlesex University in November 2016 found that nearly two-thirds of surveyed UK police officers said that they had investigated online grooming and/or the collection or distribution of IIOC, but the majority had not received any relevant training. Almost half had received no training at all on online CSA, 38% had received “general” training, and 16% had received “specific” training on the subject.141 Chief Constable Bailey assured us in March that there is now “a lot of training” taking place within forces, and that a “comprehensive package” is being rolled out by the College of Policing, with 10,000 frontline officers due to complete it by March 2019. Overall, he argued that the police service has “come a long way in the last three or four years, but there is still more to be done”.142 In November 2016, the College announced plans to pilot a “licence to practise” approach for CSA cases, to ensure that child abuse investigators have up-to-date skills and training, which is being piloted in three forces.143

93.Chief Constable Sara Thornton, Chair of the NPCC, told us that “one of the things that we have identified across the board is the lack of skills and the need to skill up our staff, whether they are dealing with local cases or whether they are [ … ] in the regional units. There are a variety of different College of Policing training courses that are now being rolled out. But also some of it is about building capacity”.144 In April, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) called for the police to “raise the profile and priority of child sexual abuse”, and for entry requirements for senior leadership positions to include “operational policing experience in preventing and responding to child sexual abuse” and “accreditation” in this area. It recommended that the College of Policing develop the training content and accreditation requirements.145

94.Based on inspections by HMICFRS and evidence received by witnesses, it appears that many police forces are woefully under-resourced for the volume of online child sexual abuse investigations they now need to undertake. It is unacceptable that officers are forced to investigate CSA cases with no specialist training at all, and that forces have insufficient resources to manage the risks posed to children by registered sex offenders, constantly playing ‘catch-up’ with a backlog of visits. We welcome efforts by the College of Policing to prioritise this issue, but we call on the Home Secretary to take urgent action to ensure that all forces have sufficient specialist CSA investigators, properly trained to undertake this vital and urgent child protection work. This may require more resources and capabilities to be provided at a regional level, as we will explore in Chapter 9.

Disclosure and digital evidence

95.As well as creating problems for investigators, the growth in digital evidence has been associated with failings in the disclosure of criminal evidence to defence lawyers. In December 2017, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) reportedly abandoned the prosecution of a man charged with raping a child under 16, after the police disclosed additional evidence that was “relevant” to the case against him.146 Since then, disclosure issues have been the subject of a significant degree of scrutiny, including a report by the Justice Select Committee, in which it concluded that police forces are “not always adequately equipped or properly trained to handle the type and volume of evidence that they now routinely collect”. The Committee recommended that the CPS, NPCC and College of Policing should produce a “comprehensive strategy to ensure that all 43 police forces are equipped to handle the increasing volume and complexity of digital evidence”, considering skills and technology, and “underpinned by appropriate investment”.147

96.In a “disclosure improvement plan” published in May, the CPS, NPCC and College stated that they would review whether there should be a requirement for officers to hold a Licence to Practice in relation to disclosure. Giving evidence in March, Will Kerr referred to disclosure issues in CSA, and said that the principal piece of relevant legislation, the Criminal Procedures and Investigations Act 1996, “was never designed with the scale of digital evidence [ … ] that we see now” in mind. He added:

A contemporary smartphone holds around about 128 gigabytes of data. That equates to [ … ] 12,800 boxes full of paper. It is the same weight as a Boeing 757. The system just isn’t designed to cope with that range of digital evidence [ … ]. There have been some clear failings recently, but I think it is important to update and refresh the legislation to keep pace with the fact that everybody lives their lives digitally online now and the disclosure regime needs to reflect that.148

97.We share the Justice Committee’s concerns that police forces are not adequately equipped to handle the volume or type of digital evidence now generated, including in online child sexual abuse cases. Although reforms to the disclosure regime are clearly needed, this is undoubtedly having an impact on the speed of investigations, too, as identified by HMICFRS. It is also symptomatic of broader problems facing a police service which appears increasingly ill-equipped for the challenges of the digital age. Addressing this will require fundamental reforms to the structure, culture and workforce of policing, which we will return to in chapters 7–9 of this report.

Attrition through the law enforcement response

98.The available data shows a sizeable gap between the growing prevalence of CSA online, including IIOC offences, and the number of convictions and custodial sentences. Last year, there were 385 convictions for possession of an indecent image of a child and 3,020 convictions for “taking, permitting to be taken or making, distributing or publishing indecent photographs or pseudo photographs of children”. Cassandra Harrison told us that public protection outcomes may have been achieved in cases without judicial outcomes, in which “the police may have played a really important role in safeguarding children”.149

99.Written evidence revealed some of the reasons for the gap between industry referrals, recorded crime and justice outcomes. During the year ending 31 August 2017, the NCA received 70,530 industry reports and made 8,291 disseminations to UK forces. This represented about 12% of all reports received by the NCA.150 Of those discarded, a large proportion (46%) were “informational reports”–so-called “viral images” determined to be adult pornography, images of clothed children, or technical errors. In follow-up written evidence, Chief Constable Bailey outlined a number of reasons for attrition of online CSA cases from the law enforcement stages of the criminal justice system, between acceptance of an NCA referral by a force and arrest. These included:

100.We also asked forces for outcomes data on IIOC offences during the previous five years. As outlined above, forces told us they recorded over 22,000 incidents in the year ending March 2018 (there is likely to be substantial overlap between these figures and the 8,291 NCA referrals to forces). According to Chief Constable Bailey’s evidence, around 5,400 people are being arrested per year for IIOC offences (approximately 450 per month). Collectively, 40 forces told us they had issued 249 cautions during 2017/18, with 431 issued the year before. Over 2,000 charges had been recorded (3,872 in the previous year); in 1,937 cases, no suspect had been identified; and 4,350 cases did not result in charges due to “evidential difficulties”. These figures suggest that only 9% of recorded incidents are leading to a charge (although a precise proportion cannot be calculated from the available evidence), and that far fewer charges are being brought forward—a 48% decrease between 2017 and 2018.

101.In a subsequent submission, Chief Constable Bailey said that police ICT infrastructure is “outdated”, and that “Offenders utilise the latest technology”, often “outpacing law enforcement”.152 The dark web was identified as a particular challenge for the NCA: Will Kerr told us that “we should be worried about it”, because it hosts “a higher-risk level of offending, where they have international communities of offenders [ … ] who are actively sharing paedophile manuals, actively sharing techniques and tactics to groom children online”. He highlighted that some offenders move between the dark web and the open web, so the response requires “a joined-up strategy that deals with both”.153

102.Lynne Owens subsequently reassured us that there is “no evidence that policing has taken a backward step from this activity at all. We are arresting more people than ever before.”154 She added that “we are keeping up with those referrals” (from industry), but “what we are not yet doing in the way that I think we should is being able to build the capacity and the capability to keep ahead of the curve”.155 Ms Owens admitted that “we do not have enough dark web analytical capability across the whole system currently”, and “we need to find a way to build that capability”, with money to support it.156 The Home Secretary announced an additional £21 million of funding for the law enforcement response to CSA in his September speech, although he did not specify how it would be allocated.

103.Child sexual abuse online is reaching epidemic levels, and there is absolutely no room for complacency. We received strong assurances that the police are pursuing offenders and are not stepping back from this activity, despite the vastly-increased volume of demand. But the NCA estimates that 80,000 people in the UK present some form of sexual threat to children online—yet our figures show that only 2,017 charges were brought in the year ending March 2018. The figures we received also suggest a very large gap between the number of recorded IIOC crimes and the number of arrests, with just one arrest for every ten recorded incidents, and a reduced number of charges in the last year. Whatever the causes of this attrition—lack of capacity, lack of technological capability, or lack of expertise at a force level, for example—we are extremely worried about the number of children who might be at risk of abuse from unidentified offenders in the same home, community or school, or online.

104.We are concerned that the police response to online CSA is still nowhere near the scale needed, especially given the risk that online CSA may either be an indicator of current or future contact child abuse or a contributing factor towards an offender engaging in physical child abuse in future. It is particularly troubling that an increasing number of IIOC cases are being abandoned without charge due to ‘evidential difficulties’, or because no suspect can be identified after an offence is detected. The technological capabilities available to officers are not keeping up with those being exploited by offenders, and many cases are being abandoned because offenders cannot be traced to a precise location.

105.We welcome the Home Secretary’s recent announcement of additional resources, and we urge the Government to continue treating this as a high priority area for investment, ensuring that the police service has access to advanced tools to track down offenders and bring them to justice. This extremely dangerous crime cannot be treated simply as ‘too difficult to solve’. The NCA must also be supported to ensure that it can build the capabilities required to tackle offenders on the dark web. By the end of November, the Home Office should provide us with a breakdown of how the additional funding for CSA policing will be allocated.


106.Several witnesses raised concerns about the lack of rehabilitation for online child sex offenders—particularly for IIOC offences. Ministry of Justice figures show that there were 385 convictions for possession of an indecent image of a child in 2017, and 128 cautions issued. 415 sentences were handed down, including 89 custodial sentences, 113 community orders and 169 suspended sentences. Of those sent to custody, the majority (54) received a sentence of 12 months or less. There were an additional 3,020 convictions for taking, permitting to be taken or making, distributing or publishing indecent photographs or pseudo photographs of children, 191 cautions and 2,812 sentences handed down, of which only 23% (646) were custodial sentences. Almost half of those going to prison (44%) received custodial sentences of 12 months or less.157

107.In total, the number of custodial sentences handed down last year represents just 14% of the total arrest figures provided by Chief Constable Bailey (roughly 450 arrests per month), and only 4% of IIOC incidents recorded by forces in the year ending March 2017 (18,347), even assuming that the two categories of offending—possessing and taking images—do not overlap (i.e. some offenders may have received custodial sentences for both offences). This has provoked frustration among some senior police officers. Last February, Chief Constable Bailey told The Times that “alternatives” to prosecution need to be considered for individuals viewing IIOC, such as counselling and rehabilitation for lower-level offenders.158 Giving evidence to us a year later, he said that his intervention was “based upon my real frustration and concerns that we are simply letting victims down”, due to significant delays in getting cases into the Crown Court. He added that there is “no rehabilitation involved anywhere”, and argued again for alternative approaches to IIOC offending:

They should be being forced to attend a course, which they would probably pay for, so they could address their offending behaviour [ … ] When you look at the most prolific offending block viewing indecent imagery, it is the 18 to 24-year-olds, because they do not understand the law. [ … ] I understand the desire that all paedophiles should be locked up and the key should be thrown away for life [ … ], but that is not the real world.159

108.Other witnesses agreed that there should be more focus on preventing future offending. Elaine McConnell, CEO of The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, a child protection charity which offers a helpline for people worried about CSA (including their own sexual thoughts about children), called for a cross-Government working party to address CSA prevention and rehabilitation. She referred to the need to upskill parents, work with young people so that they know where to go to get help, intervene with offenders who seek help, and make workplaces safer.160 Similarly, Will Kerr said that far too much responsibility had been given to “the pursuit space”, and not enough “cross-sectoral thought” had gone into “how we prevent and protect our children in the first place”. He called for “a fundamentally different preventative approach”, including engagement with the education, health and “social sector”.161

109.Echoing Chief Constable Bailey, Lynn Owens subsequently said “There is a question about what happens with those people [IIOC offenders] when they get to the courts because, although many of them are being convicted, their sentences are very low”.162 She told us the NCA is “in a conversation” with the CPS about the use of conditional cautions in this area, “which would enable [offenders’] behaviour to be proactively monitored”.163 Other witnesses also defended the use of these penalties: Chief Constable Bailey said that they can have “significant conditions attached to it, and if they are not adhered to, then you go back before the Crown Court”. Similarly, Elaine McConnell highlighted that the breaching of a conditional caution “would have the same consequences [as] breaching a community sentence—you are in front of a judge, you are still on the sex offender register and you still come up on a DBS [disclosure and barring service check]”.164

110.We welcome the personal commitment of the Home Secretary to lead action in this area, and we commend the work of the National Crime Agency and the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, in seeking to combat the destructive and growing threat of child sexual abuse. We have serious concerns, however, about the current scale of the policing response to this growing crime, in the context of a relatively small number of convictions, an even lower number of custodial sentences, and evidence that most offenders are undergoing no rehabilitation at all.

111.Relative to the scale of the problem, only a tiny number of offenders are being charged or convicted for the possession of IIOC—there were just 385 convictions last year. The deterrent effect against potential offenders is therefore minimal. Many of those who may pose a threat to children online will continue to have direct contact with children. We are deeply concerned about the collective failure to protect those children, and a comprehensive strategy led by the Home Office is needed to address this. It must include engagement with other Government departments, as well as the police and criminal justice system, internet and tech companies, children’s services, schools and community organisations. It should also review the interaction between the police and the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) in responding to IIOC offences, to prevent dangerous contact with children.

112.This evidence also calls for a major focus on prevention and child safety. All cases referred to police forces must lead to an investigation of whether or not the suspected offender is in contact with children, and whether action is needed to protect children through safeguarding work. Leaving children at risk because police forces don’t have the capacity or expertise they need, or because of failings in co-ordination and the lack of a wider strategy against online child abuse, would be unforgivable. Without urgent action, future generations will look back and be appalled at how slow the system was to respond to this new threat.

113.It is vital that the police continue to pursue these offenders and bring them to justice, but there is also a pressing need to tackle offending and recidivism. The Government must invest urgently in research on effective prevention work, including the rehabilitation of child sexual abuse offenders.

The online space

114.Law enforcement witnesses repeatedly emphasised their frustration at the lack of work being done to prevent CSA, particularly online, and they called for tech companies to do more. Chief Constable Bailey said that his “greatest frustration” was that “so much of this abuse is preventable”:

It is the responsibility of the tech companies that are providing the platforms that are allowing people to abuse. I am regularly asked, “Are there now more people with a sexual interest in children than there were 20 or 30 years ago?” I do not believe that is the case. I simply believe that technology has now opened up an array of opportunities that were simply never ever afforded to would-be offenders before.165

115.The industry response to this problem is coordinated by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a UK-based charity which works to remove CSA material from the internet, and to raise awareness of CSA issues within the tech industry. It is largely funded by internet service providers, with additional funding from the European Commission. Associated members can download lists of ‘hashes’ (features of digital material) and URLs daily, to ensure that their services enforce the most up-to-date blocks and filters.166 Witnesses were clear that more could be done: Will Kerr referred to “three or four simple things that we could ask the companies all to engage in”, in order to enhance online child safety, which were elaborated upon in written evidence from Chief Constable Bailey. These were:

116.If the volume of demand could be reduced, they argued, law enforcement could be given “the time and the space” to target “those people who are committing the very, very worst forms of abuse”. Lynne Owens said that tech companies could do more when referring IIOC to the NCA, after which CEOP “then have to do comms data checks” and “an intelligence build around it”. She said that the companies “already have all that information”, and that “I think they should be giving us an intelligence package that enables us to get to the bottom of identifying who the offender is”.168

117.In July, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s interim report on ‘fake news’ called for “clear legal liability” to be established in relation to illegal and harmful content online, and suggested that “failure to act” could leave tech companies “open to legal proceedings launched either by a public regulator, and/or by individuals or organisations who have suffered as a result”.169 During the Home Secretary’s recent speech on CSA, he said that “there are some companies that refuse to take it seriously”, and promised legislative proposals in a forthcoming Online Harms White Paper.170

118.Like many of the trends identified in this report, responsibility for cracking down on online child sexual abuse is falling almost entirely on an overstretched and under-resourced law enforcement community, with inadequate cooperation from the internet giants. While we acknowledge that the Internet Watch Foundation plays an important role in removing abusive material, law enforcement witnesses were clear that tech companies are not doing enough to reduce the number of child abuse images online. We agree with the Home Secretary that the web giants need to do much more to combat online CSA. The wealth, power and influence of these companies means that there is no excuse for complacency in removing illegal content from their platforms and ensuring the safety of their users.

119.We urge the Government to include in its Online Harms White Paper the imposition of statutory duties on companies to cooperate with investigators in the pursuit of online child abuse offenders, including by providing more comprehensive intelligence packages to CEOP and other investigators. The Government should also establish a regulator with statutory powers to hold internet companies to account against a clear code of practice, developed in consultation with law enforcement experts. Failure to adhere to this code, such as providing inadequate protections against online grooming and the proliferation of child abuse images. should result in penalties being imposed, including fines and other sanctions as appropriate.

117 According to the ONS, changes to police recording practices are also likely to have had an effect. For example, see: ONS, Sexual offences in England and Wales: year ending March 2017, 8 February 2018

119 ONS, Crime in England and Wales: Appendix Tables, Year ending March 2018

122 ONS, Abuse during childhood: Findings from the Crime Survey for England and Wales, year ending March 2016, 4 August 2016

129 National Crime Agency (PFF0007)

134 National Crime Agency (PFF0007)

137 HMICFRS, National Child Protection Inspection Post-Inspection: Quarter 4 Update, The Metropolitan Police Service, October – December 2017, February 2018

138 HMICFRS, National Child Protection Inspection Post-Inspection: Quarter 4 Update, The Metropolitan Police Service, October – December 2017, February 2018

139 HMICFRS, National Child Protection Inspections: Merseyside Police, 23 April – 4 May 2018, August 2018

141 EU Child Online Safety Project, Enhancing Police and Industry Practice, November 2016

143 College of Policing news item, New approach to vulnerability for policing announced, 30 November 2016

145 Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, Interim Report, April 2018, Chapter 7

147 House of Commons Justice Committee, Disclosure of evidence in criminal cases (HC 859), Eleventh Report of Session 2017–19, 20 July 2018

150 National Crime Agency (PFF0011)

151 National Police Chiefs’ Council (PFF0015)

152 National Police Chiefs’ Council (PFF0013)

157 Ministry of Justice, Criminal Justice System statistics quarterly: December 2017, Outcomes by offence data tool, accessed 6 September 2018

166 Internet Watch Foundation website (iwf.org.uk), Image Hash List, accessed 6 September 2018

167 National Police Chiefs’ Council (PFF0013)

169 House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Disinformation and ‘fake news’: Interim Report, Fifth Report of Session 2017–19 (HC 363), 29 July 2018

Published: 25 October 2018