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Norfolk’s chief constable says tech companies are ‘facilitating child abuse’

PUBLISHED: 09:19 11 February 2019

Chief Constable Simon Bailey at Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters, Wymondham. Photo : Steve Adams

Chief Constable Simon Bailey at Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters, Wymondham. Photo : Steve Adams

Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015

Norfolk’s chief constable said increasing numbers of sexual offences were being committed because of the emergence of dating apps which he said was “facilitating child abuse”.

Simon Bailey, the county’s chief constable and national lead on child protection, has called on tech companies to do more to help protect save young lives.

Mr Bailey, who speaks on child sexual exploitation on behalf of the National Police Chiefs Council, said it was unacceptable that internet companies were “absolving themselves of responsibility” for what happens on their platforms.

In a national newspaper interview Mr Bailey said: “I believe that increasing numbers of serious sexual offences are being perpetrated because of he emergence of dating apps.

“This technology is facilitating child abuse.

“A child should not be able to get onto these apps.

“I believe there is strict age verification software that can be applied to dating apps to ensure that the people who use them are the age that they say they are.

“The age limit for such apps should be 18.”

Mr Bailey said police were aware of cases where children had been raped as a result of relationships developing on these sites.

He said: “If you are a young boy exploring your sexuality and you go on there you are leaving yourself open to exploitation.

“There is widespread abuse of the age limits.”

Mr Bailey said technology companies should be “more than happy” to ensure their apps use age verification technology to protect children as well as their brand.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) estimates that up to 80,000 people in the UK pose a sexual threat to children online following the increase in live streaming of abuse platforms and sharing of images between offenders.

The NCA said it received more than 82,000 referrals for child sexual abuse images from social media companies in 2017, a 700pc increase since 2012.

Mr Bailey said more than 450 offenders are arrested and 500 children are safeguarded every month, but the volume of referrals “keeps on growing”.

He said if tech companies did not do enough then legislation might be necessary, adding: “In 2030 I don’t want to be saying ‘how did we let this happen?’”

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