Two sex offenders convicted a day for possession of child abuse images

Huge scale of online child abuse images revealed on 2nd year anniversary of Prime Minister David Cameron's 'internet crackdown'

Sex offenders are still being convicted at the rate of 2 a day for possessing child abuse images 2 years after the Prime Minister urged industries to ‘obliterate’ them.

Our snapshot has revealed the scale of the online child abuse problem, and the challenges police forces face as offenders invent new ways to access the vile trade. 

Our analysis reveals that since David Cameron called for action, more than 4.5 million images have been seized by police in 100 criminal cases taken to court.

Convicts from all walks of life

Those convicted came from all walks of life but 1 in 3 held positions of trust, or had roles that allowed them access to children.

GavelThey included:

  • doctors
  • teachers
  • Scout leaders
  • clergymen
  • police officers
  • a magician
  • and a Santa Claus.

More than 1 in 4 were also convicted of other sexual crimes, including grooming, voyeurism, and indecent assault and 1 in 6 already had criminal records for similar offences. Court cases also revealed how offenders were devising new ways to share abuse, including live streaming the assault and rape of youngsters.

An ongoing problem

During a speech in July 2013, David Cameron promised law enforcement agencies would be given more powers and challenged search engines to stamp out the vile images that were hidden 'in the darkest corners of the internet'.

But despite the positive steps taken, our analysis of national and local newspaper stories reveals at least 1000 court cases involving offenders with abuse images, which frequently show children being assaulted and raped.

In the snapshot there were 101 offenders, including a father and son, and a teenager who confessed to viewing such pictures from the age of 12. Only 2 two of those convicted were women.

6 out of 10 were sent to prison. Others were given community orders or told to do unpaid work.

The number of cases reaching court are just a fraction of the overall level of offending, with around 50,000 people in the UK thought to be making and sharing the shocking images.

Offenders imprisoned for a total of 49 years

"Urgent action is needed to prevent this horrendous abuse from appearing online"
Claire Lilley / NSPCC Head of Child Safety Online

Claire Lilley, Head of Child Safety Online for the NSPCC, said:
"This is an alarming study and just a fragment of the hundreds of other similar convictions during the same period. The Prime Minister made a bold move in announcing a host of initiatives to tackle this problem, but it is clear that, 2 years after he called for a crackdown, the scale of the issue is proving to be massive.

"One of the major challenges facing police forces is that as technology advances offenders are inventing new ways to commit crimes. We heard cases about offenders live streaming abuse or grooming children through social networks under fake identities.

"We want all UK forces to step up to the challenge of tackling the vast amount of online offending taking place. But they need support. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) recently published a report into how the UK’s police forces deal with the online sexual exploitation of children. Over half of the case files they looked at (52%) were judged to be inadequate or needing improvement. These are 20th century tactics for a 21st century crime. 

"We want proper training and resources for officers, ensuring as many victims and offenders can be identified as possible when these crimes are being investigated. Latest technology can help. The new Child Abuse Image Database will enable quicker identification of images and victims. It’s not the whole solution but it’s a very positive step.

"We also want offenders to get the message that this is not a victimless crime. Offenders should stop convincing themselves that there is no harm in ‘just looking’.  In every image there is a child who has been the victim of sexual abuse, and every time an adult looks at an image they risk desensitising themselves to that child’s horrific experiences. Just by looking, they increase the demand for more children to be abused, more children to endure this terrible crime.

"They also run the very real risk that when caught they stand to lose everything – their liberty, job, home and even family."

What we're doing to prevent online abuse