The growth of online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) is causing increasing concern within and outside law-enforcement. One of the consequences of the global reach of the internet and social media is that it 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.
Building on its previous research into child sexual exploitation, the Police Foundation completed a major new programme of research on tackling online child sexual exploitation and abuse, funded by the Dawes Trust. We worked with the police, academia, technology companies and charities to find out how we can improve the response to CSEA. We aimed to understand what is effective and how law enforcers can better prevent harm, support victims and pursue offenders.
Scope of the research
The research considered the role the police and law enforcers should play in tackling CSEA; how they should work with organisations outside the criminal justice system and how the frameworks for responding to CSEA should be structured at the local, national and international level.
It also considered the effectiveness of the law enforcement response to online CSEA including how online CSEA should be prevented, identified and investigated; how victims should be supported; whether there are gaps in law enforcers’ skills and capabilities and the suitability of the existing regulatory and legal frameworks for tackling online CSEA.