Julian Huppert MP writes…Tackling child abuse online: Doing what works

Thanks to a number of national police forces, led by the Canadians, working together 341 child abusers have been arrested and almost 400 children being held as sex slaves have been freed in recent months. That is fantastic news.

However, not one of those was in Britain.

2,345 British suspects had been identified by the authorities in Toronto, some of whom are feared to have regular contact with children, and these were passed to CEOP, the specialist police centre, but astonishingly, no action was taken on our side for 18 months.

It appears that whilst the Prime Minister has a number of great speeches to give on the issue of child protection online when the opportunity to crack-down actually arose the powers we already had at our disposal were simply not used.

And yet the Prime Minister and Home Secretary keep pushing for new powers, such as Internet filters and search term blocks. These can at best be described as ineffective and at worst could make things worse, possible leaving children suffering at hands of abusers, unable to access information that could help them escape.

It seems like the sensible thing to do is make sure that the powers we already have are used. We should go after those suspects we know exist. We are already good at closing webpages down – thanks to the work of the Internet Watch Foundation, every one of the 73 UK webpages that hosted child abuse images was removed within four days – most within the first 60 minutes of the alarm sounding.

Applying censorship sets a dangerous precedent and I have urged the Government to re-think their proposals. The PM and Home Secretary make much of their strong rhetoric for ever more draconian approaches, but this won’t make a blind bit of difference if when it comes to making a difference, they fail to act.

* Julian Huppert was the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge from 2010-15

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One Comment

  • Stuart Mitchell 3rd Dec '13 - 6:07pm

    “Tackling child abuse online: Doing what works”

    In this case, what “worked” was raiding the offices of a Canadian firm which was foolish enough to openly sell DVDs of naked children, apparently in the belief that they were not breaking the law.

    Things are rarely this simple, and while you are right to highlight the fact that the British authorities (under your government) were wrong not to act on the information they received, I fail to see how this has anything to do with the much more complex debate around tackling web child porn – still less the government’s proposed optional porn filters. Muddying the waters in this way doesn’t really help.

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