More than 50,000 people making child abuse images, claims NSPCC

Offenders are still being convicted at a rate of two a day. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Offenders are still being convicted at a rate of two a day. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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MORE than 4.5 million images have been seized by police across the UK since David Cameron launched a campaign to “obliterate” child abuse images from the internet, the NSPCC has revealed.

A snapshot compiled by the NSPCC of 100 criminal cases convicted in court include doctors, teachers, Scout leaders, clergymen, police officers, a magician and a Santa Claus.

Offenders are still being convicted at a rate of two a day for possessing abuse images; however the NSPCC estimates that the number of cases reaching court is just a fraction of the overall level of offending with more than 50,000 people in the UK thought to be making and sharing the shocking images. The charity has called for “urgent action” and challenged the PM to redouble his efforts following his crackdown pledge in 2013.

Scots included in the NSPCC snapshot include Elgin stamp collector Paul Hirst, 59, who was caught storing more than 300,000 indecent images of children on his computer, and Ayrshire woman Cheryl Snaddon, 22, one of only two women convicted across the UK – caught with a haul of indecent images showing youngsters being raped and abused.

In total, eight Scottish cases have been included in the snapshot. Others included former Dundee nursery worker Danny Kilburn, Cumbernauld man Greig Woods and former photo-shop assistant Neil McGibbon, from Dunfermline, who were each jailed after being found with more thousands of indecent images of children.

The charity also highlights former Dundee bus driver Gary Johnstone, who admitted spending two hours every night for five years gathering indecent images and videos, plus former Edinburgh community councillor Terry Tweed and former Glasgow doctor Brian Morris, who were both jailed after police seized indecent images and videos of children.

Claire Lilley, head of child safety online for the NSPCC, said: “The scale of the problem is shocking and even more so because of the number of people who hold positions of trust in our communities. Defenceless babies and children are being molested to feed the appetite of offenders, and that demand is just not going away.

“The Prime Minister made a bold attempt to tackle this problem but it is clear that, two years after he called for a crackdown, the scale of the problem is proving to be massive.”

During a keynote speech in 2013, Mr Cameron promised law-enforcement agencies would be given more powers and challenged search engines to stamp out abuse images.

In response to the NSPCC’s call for further action, the minister for preventing abuse and exploitation, Karen Bradley, has highlighted funding of £10 million for further specialist teams within the National Crime Agency (NCA) and new collaboration between the NCA and GCHQ using the latest techniques to target online offenders

Meanwhile, a Scottish Government spokeswoman pointed to the work of Police Scotland’s new National Child Abuse Investigation Unit and Disclosure Scotland as ways the government tackles the problem north of the Border.

She added: “While the regulation of the internet is currently a reserved matter for the UK Government, the Scottish Government actively works within its powers with Police Scotland and other partners to identify and prosecute anyone who views child abuse images in order to protect vulnerable children.”

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