Time to Turn the Tables on Child Sex Offenders

A blog by Jim Gamble, former head of CEOP and current chief executive of INEQE Safe and Secure. Extracts first published in the The Sun on Sunday.

Recently the Director General of the National Crime Agency, Keith Bristow, shared a hard truth and the worst kept secret in child protection, when he told us – Law enforcement don’t have the resources to deal with the massive number of child abusers who nest deep within the web. In the UK we are told that up to 50,000 are satisfying their deviant sexual interest in children by downloading images that range from the provocative, to brutal rape and beastiality.
​He suggests that focusing on the worst offenders is now the best, if only option. However another problem that I know Keith recognises is the fact that risk assessment is an imprecise science, if science at all. Men who have looked at and fantasised about fully clothed pictures of children have been caught committing contact offences, so the type of image viewed is not always a good indicator. Dr Myles Bradbury had been online looking at images, which were nowhere near the top of the scale yet behind his mask as a trusted cancer specialist, he was abusing children in the privacy of his examination room. You cannot tell by looking and you cannot accurately assess risk on the basis of the severity of the image that the offender is ‘caught’ looking at.
​Usually the general public only get the sound bites, ‘We cannot arrest our way out of this,’ ‘The majority of child abuse takes place in the home,’ and ‘People who look at images don’t all abuse children, off-line, in the ‘real world’. In my opinion each statement is somewhere between the truth and a lie.
​To say we cannot arrest 50,000 people might currently be true, however I would argue that it is a matter of where the governments investment in police priorities lie. So while I accept that tracking people on our roads is different, it still requires significant resource. In 2012 the police stopped nearly 700,000 drivers suspected of drink driving, arresting almost 80,000 of them. As recent online cases have proven we have the technology to identify these people so must provide the resource to deal with them or accept we are not prioritising the issue.

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