There could be a dozen digital devices in an offender’s house, each needing intricate examination with specialist software that can take six months to carry out. A new computer system was installed this year to co-ordinate examination of child abuse images, which will be linked to Interpol; the NCA alone will have 12 officials whose only job is to identify victims in these unsavoury images.
Among new measures being developed is a system that would alert minors when they are being groomed by men posing as fellow children when talking to them through Facebook or other social networking sites.
Senior police, politicians and child protection groups want to spark debate over the best way to encourage paedophiles to seek assistance before they harm children – but Mr Gormley accepts that this is an ‘uncomfortable discussion’ for the public.
Simon Bailey, the Association of Chief Police Officers spokesman on child protection, recently suggested ‘non-contact abusers’ – those solely viewing images online – might be treated by mental health specialists on the NHS.
Last week the NSPCC issued a report revealing the number of children in the child protection system had risen 80 per cent in just over a decade to 570,800 – while it estimates that for every one child officially identified as ‘at risk’, eight more suffer abuse.
And it facilitates an interest in a way that was not possible before.’Before the internet arrived, paedophiles were found in possession of an average 150 images.
Today there are 100 million child abuse pictures online and individuals may have hundreds of thousands downloaded.It only emerges years later, as we saw with Savile.’During 28 years as a detective, Phil Gormley thought he had seen it all, from vicious rapes to brutal murders.Like other police officers, he has also had to confront sickening evidence of child sex abuse.Today it is investigating more than 150, with 300 dedicated detectives in its child protection unit.Almost 750 people were caught in one major case involving 520 children, while the NCA is also seeing growing evidence of ‘abuse to order‘ – British men paying as little as (£1.90) to observe sexual attacks streamed online from Asia.‘I don’t know if there is a massive increase in the number of people with a proclivity for child sex,’ says Gormley.Gwynne says there are no absolute figures given the furtive nature of this proclivity.