The UK government has announced plans to commit an additional £24.1m in funding to the fight against the spread of child abuse images on the internet.
The funding includes £21.5m in funding to help law enforcement officials track down and apprehend the most dangerous offenders, and an additional £2.6m to support charities undertaking prevention work, with the aim of protecting children and stopping people from creating or accessing child abuse images on the internet.
The announcement came as part of a speech delivered by UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday, in which he called on technology companies and law enforcement to work together to combat the spread online of child sexual abuse images. The country’s National Crime Agency (NCA) had previously reported a 700% rise in the number of images being referred to the agency over the past five years.
How will the additional funds be prioritised to deliver the maximum impact?
The additional funding is also designed to allay concerns that law enforcement in the UK is ill-equipped to tackle the challenges of apprehending the thousands of offenders that are estimated to be operating in the UK currently. Some 400 suspects are arrested every month, and Javid insisted that with the extra resources, the NCA will be capable of responding to the scale of the challenge.
Lynne Owens, director general of the NCA emphasised some of the challenges that the agency is facing in apprehending offenders. She said: “Investigators are facing a constant uphill struggle because of the significant numbers of offenders committing preventable crimes, such as viewing and sharing images and videos that are easily accessible online.”
She stressed that while police resources are stretched in responding to these challenges, internet giants could play a far greater role in supporting this effort by developing and enforcing technological solutions. Owens stated: “We want industry to invest in preventing these online offences from happening in the first place. It is not just a matter for law enforcement. We need industry to make it harder for anyone to access indecent images on the internet.”