The growth of online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) is alarming. The global reach of the internet and social media has opened up opportunities for offenders to reach children anywhere in the world. It has also made it easy for these individuals to view, produce and distribute indecent images of children.
Yet law enforcement must work within systems designed to tackle and prevent crime in a pre-internet age. The rise in online offending and the increasing numbers of children at risk can only place the police under greater strain.
The Police Foundation has begun a major new programme of research on tackling online child sexual exploitation and abuse, funded by the Dawes Trust. We will work with the police, academia, technology companies and charities to find out how we can improve the response to CSEA. We aim to understand what is effective and how law enforcers can better prevent harm, support victims and pursue offenders.
The research will consider the following questions:
What role should the police and law enforcers play in tackling in online CSEA?
How should law enforcement work with organisations outside the criminal justice system to tackle online CSEA?
How are frameworks for responding to CSEA structured at the local, national and international level?
How does law enforcement manage its relationship with digital technology companies?
How should the police deal with online activists
How effective is the law enforcement response to online CSEA?
How is online CSEA prevented, identified and investigated?
How are victims supported?
Are there gaps in the skills and capabilities of law enforcers’ skills and capabilities?
How suitable are the existing regulatory and legal frameworks for tackling online CSEA?