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NetClean Labs | 24/09/2018

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“We cannot arrest our way out of the problem”

“We cannot arrest our way out of the problem”
Guest Writer

Guest blog by John Carr OBE, expert adviser and author on Internet safety and security

Campaigners are calling for personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) to become a statutory subject in all state schools in England. A major component of this will be about sex and relationships education.

A timely proposal given what we now know about modern forms of child sexual exploitation.

With shocking revelations of widespread sexual abuse, negligence and cover ups Britain’s reputation for child protection has been severely compromised. Just last month, the National Crime Agency estimated that 750,000 men in Britain have an interest in having sex with children. Of which, 250,000 are sexually attracted to children under the age of 12.

Stark figures – and are they accurate? In my experience of working in the field of child exploitation, yes, horrifyingly so. The problem of child sexual abuse is a lot bigger and more widespread than the public seems to realise.

And if there is one thing these numbers, and the litany of cases illustrate, it’s the futility of believing that we can arrest our way out of the problem.

Can’t we just arrest them?

The number of people involved in child sexual abuse (CSA) crimes is overwhelming the capacity of law enforcement agencies around the world, including Britain. There just aren’t enough police officers to be able to deal with the current level of criminal activity taking place on the internet via the historic or traditional route of knocking on someone’s door, arresting and charging them then putting them in front of a judge.

Among many others things that need to be addressed we must make it a great deal harder to find or download child abuse material and improve our ability to find those people who do engage in that sort of behaviour. We must kill off the industry of child exploitation at its trading post – the Internet.

Technology is at the core of this – the ability to find content and eliminate it, and find those who produce, share and collect it is critical. The active involvement of those responsible for major Internet infrastructures, the government and business is vital.

CSA will not disappear overnight. But together, we can make a difference. By raising awareness in schools and in the media, we can encourage people to think differently about the issue and do something about it. Core to this is showing those interested in children a way out before they commit a crime. Raising the barrier to finding this material is the first step.

This is too important an issue to allow future generations to ignore. Protection is important, but prevention is always better than the cure.

About John Carr

John Carr writes and consults about Internet safety and security. He is one of the world’s leading authorities on children’s and young people’s use of the Internet and associated new technologies. Read more about his recent work on: