450 paedophiles arrested each month in UK as Covid lockdown saw explosion in online offences
300,000 people are also on the National Crime Agency list as being ‘a danger sexually to children.’
According to the NCA there was a rise in online child sexual abuse offences during the Covid-19 pandemic from March to recently with 450 people being charged with online sexual offences against children.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) said law enforcement was “struggling to keep up” with evolving methods of child sexual abuse being facilitated by the internet especially as millions of children took to the internet whilst isolating at home and schools were closed.
And now up to 600 children a month are being safeguarded by the authorities in the UK according to Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the national policing lead for child protection.
He said: “We are doing our best to ensure that our efforts are targeted against those individuals who will pose a contact risk.
“We can’t arrest our way out of the problem, and we have to look at a far more holistic approach … we are at saturation point.”
The NCA estimates a minimum of 300,000 people in the UK pose a risk of committing physical or online child abuse, while investigators were able to find child sexual abuse material on the open web in just three clicks.
Investigators identified these offenders who were discussing opportunities to abuse children during the lockdown in chatrooms and direct messages online.
Susie Hargreaves of the Internet Watch Foundation said: “It is horrifying to think sexual predators are viewing the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to exploit a captive audience of children, who are spending more time at home on their devices.”
And in the Thames Valley area during May alone, 30 paedophiles were arrested as part of a police investigation into a rise in online child sex abuse during the coronavirus lockdown.
Thames Valley Police said it raided addresses in Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire throughout May and said 24 children had been safeguarded.
Detective Chief Inspector Matt Darnell said reports of online child sexual abuse in the Thames Valley were 91% higher in the first five months of 2020 than in the same period last year.
He said: “Sadly, we believe that criminals have looked to exploit the fact that more children have been at home and online.
“As a result, in May we executed 37 search warrants and seized more than 400 electronic devices.”
Most of the offenders were bailed whilst their devices including phones and laptops were examined for any child exploitation.
“Often offenders are pretending to be someone they’re not,” Det Ch Inp Darnell said. “That leads to blackmail or trying to ask the children to do things they’re uncomfortable with.”
He urged parents to look out for warning signs of abuse, including children becoming “secretive, sad or withdrawn”.