Theresa May: How this Government plans to protect children from devastating sex abuse
Telegraph Wonder Women Exclusive: Home Secretary Theresa May, host of the WeProtect summit in London this week, explains why we must all unite in the battle to eliminate online child sexual exploitation in Britain and all over the world
Home Secretary Theresa May is hosting a summit to tackle global child abusePhoto: Alamy
By Theresa May, Home Secretary
7:00AM GMT 10 Dec 2014
It is often the case that the most difficult issues are the hardest to confront. Yet confront them we must. Which is why today, in London, representatives from more than 50 countries have gathered with one particular aim: the elimination of online child sexual abuse.
Every day, in countries across the globe, children are subjected to this most appalling of crimes, a crime about which we don’t yet know the true scale and which we are still learning to deal with.
The impact of child sexual abuse – both online and offline – is devastating.
There are children out there who have suffered indescribable horrors. They grow into adults who carry the burden of abuse with them throughout their lives.
Advances in technology have brought us so much. Communicating across countries and time zones is now as simple as a click of the mouse, and information can be shared freely and easily.
But the internet age has also created an opportunity for the heartless exploitation of children for profit and sexual gratification. Today there are millions of images and videos of child sexual abuse online.
It is now up to all of us to stand up and protect our children, both here in the UK and overseas.
It is a fight we in the UK cannot win alone. An international commitment and a sophisticated response are imperative if we are to bring perpetrators to justice and protect their victims.
As part of our WeProtect summit, delegates from more than 50 countries will meet law enforcement agencies, technology companies and charities to work out how best to tackle this problem.
Here in the UK, we have robust legislation that gives police the powers they need to track down offenders. Last year, more than 1,300 individuals were sentenced for crimes involving indecent images of children in England and Wales – an eight per cent increase since 2010.
What’s more, in a significant step to increase the speed of investigations and reduce the duplication of work, this month the UK’s Child Abuse Image Database (CAID) was launched. It marks a watershed moment – bringing together all known child abuse images in the UK on a single, secure database. It is our ambition that next year every police force in England and Wales will be fully connected to this incredible resource.
We have a lot to learn from other countries, too.
Analysis of the Canadian and American systems were hugely helpful in the development of CAID and Interpol’s International Child Sexual Exploitation image database (ICSE) also plays an important role.
The success of our summit depends on sharing knowledge and knocking down barriers.
We owe it to all those who have lost their childhood to sexual exploitation – and those still at risk – to do everything in our power to protect them and put an end to these most disturbing of crimes.