Tens of millions of child abuse pictures have been seized in the past two years. The NSPCC, the leading child protection charity, has found that five police forces out of the UK’s 43 have unearthed 26 million depraved images in that time.
The staggering numbers reveal the explosion of explicit sexual pictures of children shared over the internet and will shock every family in Britain.
After sickening revelations about Jimmy Savile’s reign of terror as a predatory paedophile, these statistics show how another generation of children is at risk of abuse.
The NSPCC is demanding that the Government and internet industry take action to halt the disgusting trade.
Nearly 85% of paedophiles caught with indecent images of children also admitted during lie detector tests abusing youngsters themselves.
Jon Brown, head of the NSPCC’s sexual abuse programme said: “The number of these dreadful images is absolutely appalling – and only a handful of police forces could supply figures so the true amount is probably closer to hundreds of millions.
“The truly awful thing is that more children are being abused so these pictures can be easily produced – and once in circulation they may stay there for many years.”
Our exposé comes as the Government cuts resources at the police unit tackling online child abuse.
Reports of abuse to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection unit are up 263% in two years to a record 16,550.
But Government funding, which was £6.4million last year, is being CUT by 10% over three years.
The NSPCC sent Freedom of Information Act requests to every police force asking how many images they had seized over the past two years.
Five forces reported confiscating 26 million images between them and a sixth told the charity it had seized more than 10 million photographs over a number of years.
Most of the other 37 police forces in England and Wales said it would take officers too long to count up the images to provide exact figures.
In 1990, just 7,000 child abuse pictures were in circulation, according to the Home Office.
Child safety expert John Carr said the latest figures show up to 300 million images could have been seized in England and Wales over the past two years. The revelations will pile pressure on the Government and child care authorities to show they have a grip on a spiraling problem.
Mr Carr said: “These numbers beggar belief. It’s reasonable to assume that as there is a seemingly never-ending conveyor belt of images, more children are being abused to satisfy demand.”
Many of those will be duplicates, as paedophiles trade photographs as sick trophies and compete with each other to have the largest collections.
Since 1995 the number of people convicted annually has risen more than 1,700% from 85 to 1,495 last year.
The NSPCC also found that at least 2,312 people were arrested last year for taking, possessing or distributing indecent child images.
Child abuse photographs are graded from category one to five, with the most extreme images involving sadism or bestiality. In the largest single haul seized by police, one individual had 2.5 million still and moving images.
The NSPCC’s Jon Brown said:
“If we can halt this vile trade we will be saving countless numbers of children from suffering sexual assaults which have a huge and horrendous impact on their lives. The authorities are working hard to clamp down on this but there are still far too many pictures available. It’s time the Government and the internet industry got together to find an answer to this corrosive problem, which cannot be allowed to continue. There are obviously paedophile rings which make a sordid business of sharing these images. But there are now so many in circulation that people from all walks of life are getting caught with them. They have to understand these are not just revolting pictures – they are crime scenes.”
Mr Carr, secretary of the Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety, said:
“Research has shown that the victims are getting younger and younger and are being assaulted in ever more grotesque and violent ways. Some of those who are caught with these abusive images say they had a sexual interest in children but had been too scared to do anything about it until the internet came along – then it opened the door for them. And once they’re in they crave more sickening levels of abuse. It’s not unknown for an offender to go very quickly from viewing pictures of secondary school children to images of three-year-olds who have been bound, gagged and assaulted. These numbers beggar belief but we need to face up to the realities of the situation and find better, more effective ways of tackling it.”
Three young children were rescued from a life of sexual abuse when serial paedophile Darren Leggett was jailed for seven years.
He was finally caught after the Internet Watch Foundation received a tip-off that he had created websites to distribute sexual images.
Specialist internet analysts then uncovered a chat forum with recent posts which suggested that children were in imminent danger.
To trap him, officers with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre in the UK and Germany, where the website was hosted, kept it online and Leggett was monitored arranging to pay to sexually abuse a child.
It gave police the evidence they needed for a search warrant and at his home in Kent officers found 36 films of him sexually abusing three children as young as six over a six-year period.
In court Leggett admitted 31 charges including four of child rape and possessing and distributing sexual abuse images of children.
Det Sgt Dave Shiple said: “Leggett used children as objects for his depraved desires, as commodities he was content to trade and share with others.”
He added: “This case is an excellent example of the sharing of information by those policing the internet and those policing the community.”
Paedophile Robert Barrow built up a sickening stash of more than a million pictures of child sex abuse over 15 years before he was caught – at the time the largest ever UK haul.
A police raid of his home found the vile images in August 2010.
He was convicted last January, but Barrow, 57, was given a suspended jail sentence so he could care for his frail elderly mother.
The pictures of abuse, which he shared with other paedophiles online, varied in depravity from level one to five, the most severe level.
Barrow, of Plaistow, East London, admitted seven counts of making indecent images of children and two counts of possessing the images with intent to distribute them. He was jailed for 12 months, suspended for two years, and put on the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.
He was also given a two-year supervision order and was told to attend a sex offenders’ treatment programme and obey a curfew.
Sentencing at Southwark crown court, South London, Judge Stephen Robbins told him: “Normally you would receive an immediate custodial sentence, but this case is, in my view, exceptional because of the condition of your mother.
“I therefore can and will temper justice with mercy, not to you but to your very sick mother.”
The growing sickness of online child abuse images was highlighted in 1999 with the conviction of pervert pop star Gary Glitter.
Glitter, 68, real name Paul Gadd, was jailed for four months for downloading 4,000 vile images of children, which were found on his laptop hard drive by technicians at PC World.
He later fled to Vietnam, where he was jailed in 2006 for sexually abusing two girls aged just 10 and 11.
But he was defended by Jimmy Savile in a bizarre interview in 2009.
Savile tried to claim Glitter was the victim of a police witch hunt. He even said it was up to Glitter himself to decide whether it was wrong or not.
In the interview, which was not broadcast at the time, he said:
“Now Gary, all he did was take his computer into PC World to get it repaired. They went into his hard drive, saw all these dodgy pictures and told the police and the police then said, ‘oh we’ve got a famous person… oh my goodness, yeah we’ll have them’. But Gary has not sold ’em, has not tried to sell ’em, not tried to show them in public or anything like that. It were for his own gratification. Whether it was right or wrong is, of course, up to him as a person. They didn’t do anything wrong but they are then demonised.”
Earlier this month Glitter, who now lives in a central London flat following his deportation from Vietnam in 2008, was accused of having sex with a 13-year-old girl in Jimmy Savile’s BBC dressing room.
Asked about it he told a reporter to “go away” then denied the claim, saying: “Absolutely no. Goodbye.”