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20,000 men around UK interested in sexually abusing children, chief constable warns

PUBLISHED: 06:51 30 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:28 30 December 2017

Norfolk Constabulary's chief constable Simon Bailey. Picture: Steve Adams

Norfolk Constabulary's chief constable Simon Bailey. Picture: Steve Adams

Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015

Norfolk’s chief constable has warned that thousands more police officers would still not be enough to tackle the “wicked problem” of child sexual abuse.

Simon Bailey, who leads the National Police Chiefs’ Council on child protection, said officers would never have enough capacity to solve issues around child protection - and estimated that the number of British men interested in sexually abusing children stood at more than 20,000.

He said, to put the figure in comparison, it equated to the total number of all current and former terrorism suspects in the UK - and that officers monitoring a single online chat room in 2017 identified 4,000 men using it from the UK alone.

Speaking to the Guardian, he said police were forced to ignore lower level offenders to prioritise those considered more dangerous.

He said: “There are hundreds of officers tackling this now. Thousands and thousands still would not be enough. This is one of those wicked problems we simply cannot arrest our way out of.

“We are having to prioritise the threat. Some lower-level offenders cannot be arrested and taken to court. There is just not the capacity.”

Mr Bailey blamed social media giants for offering paedophiles access to children through live streaming, and called for a crackdown on the use of such platforms.

“I believe there are tens of thousands of men that are now going into chatrooms and forums with a view to grooming children,” he said.

“Technology has afforded an access to children that people who have a sexual interest in children never had before.”

He told the Guardian he believed there were more men than there were five to 10 years ago trying to abuse children, as well as more viewing imagery and asking children to flash.

Earlier this month, the NSPCC child protection charity warned there had been a 31pc increase in the number of reported cases of child sexual abuse in the UK on last year.

Mr Bailey said reports to child protection experts were up 700pc since October 2013, though some put the increase down to people feeling more comfortable reporting offences.

In the first 11 months of 2017, the National Crime Agency received 72,000 referrals about online child sexual abuse imagery, up from 6,000 in 2010.

Mr Bailey said victims came from families from all backgrounds.

“The victims have included children of very capable and very caring parents,” he said.

“It does not recognise social status. The victims include children of middle-class, educated parents who think they are internet-savvy.”

He said young people needed to be educated about the risks.

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