Hundreds of children safeguarded after online child abuse investigation

NSPCC warns children abused in images online need identification and support, as well as those in the care of their abusers

All possible steps must be taken to identify children abused in online images, the NSPCC has warned, in light of a child abuse investigation that led to 660 arrests last night.

Jon Brown, the charity’s head of strategy and development, said professionals must take appropriate steps to ensure the well-being of children abused in images online, as well as those who were in the immediate care of the suspected abusers.

His comments follow the news that 431 children have been safeguarded as a result of the arrests, with 127 of those children said to have been at immediate risk of harm.

The suspects arrested included teachers, medical workers, police staff and social services staff, with only 39 of the suspects being registered sex offenders. Brown agreed investigations need to involve greater dialogue with children, and encouraging them to come forward and admit abuse as suspects become more difficult to identify. “The welfare of the child must come first,” he said.

There should also be “international collaboration” in finding children abused in images who are often part of “abused to order” rings, which lure in poor families who sell their children to be abused across the globe, Brown said.

The investigation was co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA), with the cooperation of every UK police force. A NCA spokesperson told Community Care there isn’t a “catch all approach” to how the child victims will be safeguarded and supported.

“The approach to safeguarding children will be done on a case by case basis – to the needs of the individual child and their circumstances,” the spokesperson said, adding: “It’s a case by case business and will be put in place by the force dealing with it.”

Meanwhile, it was reported today by The Times that a similar investigation had identified more than 10,000 suspects of online child abuse activities. 

The severity of the claim prompted an emergency question to home secretary Theresa May, but she told MPs she could not confirm the numbers were correct and would not comment on an on-going police investigation.

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